Book Review: “Corn Rose” by Karen Ross Epp
What’s the perfect way to begin the holiday season? Perhaps with a book that celebrates love, friendship, family values, and the remembrance of things past. I found a book that did just that.
“Corn Rose,” a novel by Karen Ross Epp, is based on the life experiences of the author’s mother and father in the post World War II era.
The daughter of Italian immigrants who settled in California, Rose Calamia was a lovely, sheltered young woman working at the Lockheed Aircraft Factory during the latter part of World War II. Like many women of that era, Rose left the protective confines of her parents’ traditional home to work in the factories while servicemen were overseas. It was at Lockheed that Rose met the love of her life, Jack Conner, and married him after a whirlwind courtship that surprised her as much as it did her disapproving parents.
Two more different personalities would be hard to find. Rose was warm and passionate, a city girl who liked pretty clothes, and one who had been surrounded by the love of her old-fashioned Italian family. Jack was an Iowa farm boy, raised in a part of the country where modern day conveniences were considered luxuries and where the people were hard-working and resourceful – and slow to offer acceptance to outsiders. And Rose, with her dark Italian beauty and city ways, was definitely considered an outsider – especially by Jack’s taciturn mother. Jack longed to leave the factory in California, knowing his heart and future was in farming, and finally made up his mind to return to Iowa. While Rose was unconvinced by the wisdom of his choice, she loved Jack and consented to the move.
Her life in Iowa was certainly different from what she’d previously known. Jack’s parents’ farm was struggling, still feeling the economic effects of the Great Depression. Life was harder than it had been in California. The farmhouse that Rose and Jack moved into had no indoor plumbing, no electricity. Winters were long and harsh.
The physical hardship was easier to bear than the emotional. Jack’s mother was overbearing and unwilling to give Rose a chance. She bullied the young girl – so much so that Rose questioned her own judgment about what was good for her newborn baby. In the early months of their marriage, Jack was very influenced by his mother, and several times tended to ignore his mother’s bossiness – and a time or two held her up as an example to Rose.
There were other problems in the family – Jack had an bullying, abusive older brother who was several times married and bad news for any woman foolish enough to love him. Jack, too, had his secrets which Rose would come to know with time.
Reading this book, I grew to love Rose! I loved her inner strength, her honesty and pragmatism, her willingness to do what was required of her. Most of all, I loved her big heart. Rose had great compassion for her brother-in-law’s abused girlfriend and was willing to speak up for her when no one else in the family had the courage. She exhibited understanding and care for her disabled nephew. If her mother-in-law had been willing to reach out to Rose, she would have had a daughter in spirit as well as in fact.
By the book’s end, I grew to love Jack Conner as well. He matured a great deal, understanding that he wanted his marriage to work and that it was time he stepped away from his mother’s dominance and became his own person.
If you’re looking for a story that celebrates traditional family values, determination and compassion, you should pick up “Corn Rose.” Like me, I think you’ll find yourself falling in love with this strong, beautiful woman, and recall with appreciation the qualities of the people of her era – qualities that helped make America a great country.