Strange Bed Fellows: Ethan Frome and Seven Summits — A Review


You might ask what Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton Frome and Seven SummitsSeven Summits by Dick Bass and others have in common.  It is that human beings have to have a purpose; otherwise, they rot and die.

In Ethan Frome, Zenna’s purpose is to care for people. First, it is Ethan’s mother. Then, she languishes as she is the one under care. At the end of the book, it is Zenna’s neice, and Ethan’s almost second wife, Mattie. An unsuspecting reader will wonder about this last statement until they realize the setting.

Moreland Avenue House 3-2-11-60Think Fargo…think bleak wintery conditions in a town where there is little to recommend it. Frome is stuck due to circumstances. Leaving is not an option. So he exists…until Mattie comes along. I read Ethan Frome because it was short and it was one to check off my 1001 Books to Read Before You Die List.

Seven Summits is the story of two executives who vow among themselves to climb each of the highest peaks on the seven continents — Everest, McKinley, Vinson, and others. That is their purpose; it is what consumes them for a year, and longer. As an avid reader of mountaineering, I am glad I read the book. Like Facing Up, Seven Summits shares not just the climbing, but the behind the scenes stuff, pre-expedition material. One drawback about the book — it is at times hard to tell who is talking. It is never boring and if you need something to challenge you to keep going on days when life is tough, Seven Summits is for you. Of course, the question, after the quest is completed, becomes: What do you do next?