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The House of Eve

{This Book Reflection Contains Spoilers}

Audible of The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson with a cup of tea.
Audible of The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson with a cup of tea.

Title:The House of Eve

Author: Sadeqa Johnson

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Summary: The House of Eve tells a story of women trying to make the best of their circumstances. Set in Washington DC in the 1950s, we learn of the sacrifices and secrets of Ruby, a determined 15-year-old child in poverty striving to be the first in her family to go to college, and Eleanor, who has married into an elite black family, feels like an outsider and wants nothing more than to birth a child. With backdrop themes of forbidden love, racism, colorism, and motherhood, we witness how Ruby and Eleanor’s lives support each other in ways that neither of them could imagine.

Thoughts before reading the book: I read the Yellow Wife by Sadequa Johnson and remembered the rollercoaster of emotions that that book took me through. I expected nothing less with The House of Eve and wasn’t disappointed!

What I enjoyed most about this book was how descriptive the writing style is and how it pulls you into becoming one with the characters. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into each of the characters' perspectives even if I didn’t agree with them. Forbidden love and motherhood were the two biggest themes that left a lasting impression on me from this book.

Forbidden Love

Forbidden love with Ruby came when she fell in love with a well-off, white Jewish boy named Shimmy when color lines were not approved to mix. With Eleanor, it was her falling in love and marrying her black, prestigious husband William who was on his way to becoming the third generation of black doctors in his family. His family was fair-skinned, educated, and trailblazers in their fields which was the total opposite of Eleanor’s humble upbringing and darker skin.


Motherhood and who deserves the title mother was a question that lingered in my mind after reading this book. Is a mother a woman who has birthed a child? A woman who has never birthed, but is nurturing in nature? My conclusion and definition of a mother is a woman who is experienced in life and uses their wisdom to help and look out for the betterment of a child/ a less experienced person.

Two mothers that stood out to me were Rose, Eleanor’s mother-in-law, and Inez, Rudy’s mother. Rose was a very proud woman of her family’s legacy. He family were fair-skinned black folk who were able to cross over and excel in areas that blacks could never before. She believed that skin color and social/economic status were key elements of this success and didn’t want to see it compromised. Even though I didn’t agree with Rose’s thoughts and actions, I could see her mothering nature of doing what she thought was best for her family’s future based on her experience and perspective. As for Inez, she was the worst. She chose a slimy man over her daughter, kicking her out of the house to figure out how to survive on her own. As we learn Inez’s story we learn that her relationship with Ruby’s father broke her. He abandoned them and never looked back. I again don’t agree with the way that she treated Ruby, but I could understand how Ruby could be a constant reminder of pain. Maybe the little love that Inez might have had for Ruby was shown by her pushing her away since she had nothing to offer as a mother figure.

Ruby and Eleanor as Mothers

Ruby ended up getting pregnant by Shimmy, his mother found out and sent her to a home for unmarried young girls to have their babies in secret and have a second chance at life. That second chance for Ruby was a full ride to college in exchange for never speaking to Shimmy again. As much as she loved Shimmy she knew that she would not be able to give their child the life that it deserved and wanted to avoid resentment of the life she was working so hard to get which was one out of poverty. Ruby ultimately does what Inez did, which was to give up her child for the betterment of its future. I was left wondering if that made Rudy the same or better than her mother for giving the baby a trying chance at a better life instead of struggling to figure it out as Inez did.

Eleanor’s fertility issues were hard to witness because she couldn’t have the one thing she wanted most, a baby of her own. Due to multiple miscarriages (an extra one that William found out about which was pre-him), she decided to adopt a child. First hesitant and then obsessed after the overwelming support of her husband, Eleanor lied to her peers, and friends and kept secrets from her own mother because she wanted a baby so badly. As fate has it, Eleanor ends up getting Ruby’s child, a fair-skinned, green-eyed baby girl which was perfect to Rose’s liking. A little too perfect as Eleanor learned that Rose and her husband orchestrated the whole adoption behind her back. After coming to terms with all that transpired, Eleanor’s love for her husband, desire to be a mother and build a family trumped it all.

I can see how some felt that the epilogue was too clean-cut and quick, but I loved it. With the rollercoaster of emotions that The House of Eve put me through I was revealed and enjoyed how Ruby’s and Eleanor's lives still paralleled each other.

- Maya & The Spine Down


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