Under the House


183 pages
ISBN 0-88922-240-1
DDC C813





Reviewed by Trish Brown

Trish Brown was an editor residing in Toronto.


Pinder writes a powerful and unnerving story about family life. The Rathbones of Saskatchewan are a secretive and silent family. We meet strong-limbed, heavy-boned male characters, then shadowy, not-quite-real female characters. The Rathbones speculate and suspect, but don’t say much to others or each other.

When S.D. Rathbone dies, the family faces a crisis. Stanley, the aggressive older son, wants to keep everything to himself and emerge as the new head of the family; Clarence, the younger brother, becomes extremely nervous and regresses to childlike stammering; Isabel, the eldest daughter, does not return for the funeral; Maude, the youngest family member, returns for the funeral, still haunted by childhood fears and memories of her schooldays when she was known as “Maudie the oddie.”

The story is told from several points of view: we share Stanley and Maude’s thoughts and then there’s Evelyn, the young girl whose mother marries into the Rathbone family. Evelyn’s story is immediately tragic. Unlike the others, she’s not dwelling on a secret, perhaps shameful past. We witness the disintegration of her spirit and zest for life as she tries to survive in a cold, emotionless environment.

There are secrets held by each member of this family. We know something very wrong has happened — but what and to whom? Suspicions and speculations change direction many times until Evelyn’s anger helps break the silence and “all” is revealed. Until the silence is broken, it is difficult to put this book down.



Pinder, Leslie Hall, “Under the House,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/34563.