Apron Strings is a brilliantly written book by Mary Morony that is a must-read for everyone. This beautiful piece follows the lives of two people whose lives intertwine in rural Virginia in the 1950’s. We meet Ethel, an African-American woman in the 1930’s who makes a living doing domestic work and young, Caucasian Sallee in the 1950’s. And although their stories are told from separate view points, their lives intersect at some very significant points.
We meet Ethel as a teenager working as a domestic for Sallee’s grandparents. Although she takes different jobs throughout the years we share with her, she is brought back full-circle to work again as a domestic for the same family when Sallee’s parents, Ginny (the granddaughter of her initial employer) and Joe Mackey, get married and begin a family.
What eventually becomes a family of four young ones, Ethel is everything to the Mackey children. She feeds them, clothes them, mothers them, loves them, and through all that seems to put her own life and happiness on hold. As aforementioned, there is a 30 year gap between the telling of the two stories, yet we also see where they run parallel to one another – which I felt were the most significant moments. The tale of these two individuals keep me glued to the pages, unsure where I was going to go aside from possibly dealing with the friction (to put it mildly) that most African-Americans dealt with during such times. But the story was so much more than that because it put aside the obvious things that make us different and addressed the part of each of our lives that make us human – love, hate, family, loneliness, and loss and hardship to name a few. Although the character of Sallee was definitely well-developed, I felt that Ethel was an extraordinary character to watch throughout the book. Apron Strings shows us how one woman gave up much of her own life for the lives of another woman’s children. The sacrifices she made and the toll they took on her is not lost on the reader for even a moment. I think Ethel’s mother, Bertha, summed up her daughter’s plight quite well when she told Ethel, “A child’s love is good for the soul, honey, and you’s got a soul thas’ a hurtin’ an’ needs that love.”
Apron Strings is brilliantly written and deserves more praise than I’m capable of through this keyboard. Ms. Morony’s work is why I do what I do. To find a book so worthy of being in the spotlight is rare. I hope she will continue to write. I would definitely read another of her works without even a second thought