#CBR7 Review #155: My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather

When I was at my local library, I just sort of swooped through the Cather books and picked them all up. I didn’t realize that in addition to her sweeping novels, Cather also wrote some very short tomes. My Mortal Enemy is one such book. It clocks in at just over 100 pages, and it is more a vignette than an actual plot, which makes it a challenge to blog about.

My Mortal Enemy takes the viewpoint of Nellie Birdseye, a 15-year-old girl living out West (obviously). Her aunt Lydia likes to tell the story of Myra Driscoll, a young woman living on the generous patronage of her uncle, who defied his threats to disown her by marrying the young Oswald Henshawe. In one seemingly average evening, Myra and Oswald secretly marry and take the night train out to the city. This dashing act of impetuous love takes the entire town by storm. Myra inherits nothing and the estate is left to the Catholic Church. Nellie and Lydia go to visit the Henshawes in the city, where they discover that marrying for love is idealistic, but has its own set of consequences for life and comfort. Ten years later, Nellie runs into them again, and this time, her own set of morals are shaken by the confessions that Myra confides.

This book is incredibly short and spare in plot, but it packs a lot of interesting questions about morality and love vs. money. I was interested in the way Cather sets up her character studies, particularly the very vague idea of “my mortal enemy,” which can have several interpretations. While this was not my favorite, it’s still worth reading at least once.

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