Lori Roy’s “Until She Comes Home”

IMG_5[1]All events happening in Lori Roy’s Until She Comes Home stem from the murder of a black woman in Detroit in 1958, followed by the disappearance of a mentally-challenged young woman from a quiet white community.

With her riveting tale, Lori Roy takes us on a fascinating journey into the late ’50’s: Women’s subservient position at home and in society; racial tension (mutual distrust and wariness between whites and “coloreds”); police priorities and methods of crime investigation.

The author excels in the depiction of white men and women in the ’50’s.

What are men like?

Men are breadwinners, and they know their duty, just as they know well their wives’ duties. When trouble falls on their community, they stick together, doing as best they can to help one another. When there’s family trouble, they keep it at home. They keep the status quo in their families, no questions raised.

What are women like?

Women are housewives—not by choice but by convention. They cook, clean, do gardening, raise children, get together for an afternoon’s coffee and gossip, exchange recipes, organize regular baking sales, make casseroles for their neighbors during tough times, showing their support as best they can. They go shopping as a group, patronizing the same neighborhood bakery, and boycott it too, when something is not to their liking. Outside, they wear hats and gloves and ankle-length, bulky skirts, even in the summer’s scorching heat. In their home, they dress to the nines too, while waiting for their husbands to arrive from work at the end of the day. Yes, full makeup, a nice hairdo, a lovely dress, and even high heels. They feel insecure when their husbands arrive home late on a payday, especially if their clothes reek of another woman’s scent, so they try harder to please their spouses. They don’t burden them with their troubles, if they can avoid it. Even when a woman is raped, she is advised to keep it secret from her husband, because “no man wants to know this about his wife.”

Lots of things described in the novel made me grit my teeth from anger and think, Thank God, we’ve progressed in the past few decades!

Lori Roy is a very gifted writer. Until She Comes Home is suspenseful, gut-wrenching, thought-provoking story, which impressed me as much as her Edgar Award-winning debut novel, Bent Road.

I highly recommend both.

2 thoughts on “Lori Roy’s “Until She Comes Home”

  1. Found “Until She Comes Home” totally engrossing- hard to put down. There is an ominous progression of events which pulls you in until the end. The writing style is fairly subtle, so you try to read carefully, so you don’t miss anything. Just as important as what is said is what is left unsaid- racism so pervasive that the death of a “person of color” barely merits mention in the local newspaper or interest from the police, and how this impacts subsequent events, etc. Some things I missed, though- what happens to Malina at the end? Didn’t really get that-

    • Beth, thanks for your response. I’m glad you liked the novel as much as I did. I agree with everything you’re saying. Regarding Malina, I got the impression that she ended her life.

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