Saturday, November 29, 2014

E.B. Moore's "An Unseemly Wife"

E. B. Moore grew up in a Pennsylvania fieldstone house on a Noah’s ark farm. The red barn stabled animals two-by-two, along with a herd of Cheviot sheep. After a career as a metal sculptor, she returned to writing poetry. Her chapbook of poems, New Eden, A Legacy (Finishing Line Press, 2009), was the foundation for her novel, An Unseemly Wife, both based on family stories from her Amish roots in Lancaster. E. B. received full fellowships to The Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Here Moore dreamcasts an adaptation of An Unseemly Wife:
An Unseemly Wife tells the story of Ruth and her land-obsessed husband, Aaron. He tore his family from a Pennsylvania farm, and against their Amish faith (they should have stayed separate), headed for Idaho in the mid-1800s where he believed great tracts of free land waited. Ruth, being a week overdue with their fifth child, resisted.

Never the less, Aaron loaded his enormously pregnant wife and four children, ranging in age from eleven down to three-year-old Esther, into a Conestoga wagon for the 2000-mile trek. On the trail, temptation abounded as the family faced prejudice and a myriad of ways to die.

Their survival depended on being part of the dreaded English community. The self-proclaimed moral leader of the group, Hortence, wore grey, not the fancy colors of other women, and as a preacher’s wife she seemed like-minded, if a bit overbearing. Another who crowded Ruth’s boundaries was Sadie a loud young woman dressed in men’s fringed pants and jacket. Dependence brought them both close, and forbidden friendships with English happened. They grew, even flourished, until prejudice and jealousies lead to betrayal, and the separateness Ruth believed would save their souls, proved catastrophic. This left the family abandoned on the trailside fighting for their lives.

In writing these characters, I tried to become each one, but being an actor wasn’t for me. No cameras, not even an author photo on the book’s cover.

Now, encouraged to think of the book as a movie, I find the actors with names and faces I know are too long in the tooth, basically too old or too dead. However, if they were alive and the right age, I’d cast Gregory Peck (seen in To Kill A Mockingbird). He’d make a perfect Aaron, capable of great devotion and steely anger when crossed. Meryl Streep (in Sophie’s Choice) could play Ruth, her children’s lives at stake as she’s torn between obeying her husband and obeying her faith. No matter which way she turns there’s no avoiding catastrophe.

Esther, the feisty child nearing her fourth birthday, wields a sharp intuition for survival. She could be played by Helen Mirren at that tender age. Then there’s Hortence, heavy set, friendly by all appearances, but prone to underhanded acts. Kathy Bates (Misery) has the required wickedness.

As a director, Lisa Cholodenko (Olive Kitteridge) would be great, following a script by Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge). They have the unflinching grit I’d like to see attached to An Unseemly Wife.
Visit E.B. Moore's website.

The Page 69 Test: An Unseemly Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue