Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York, by Paul Gallico

This is the second installment of the Mrs. 'Arris series. If you would like to read my review of the first installment, Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, click here.

The story opens in the London flat that belongs to Mrs. 'Arris. She is having tea with her best friend and fellow charwoman, Mrs. Violet Butterfield. They are enjoying their beverages when they hear loud cries and wails at the Gussets' flat next door. The Gussets took in a seven year old boy named Henry Brown, shortly after the lad was abandoned by his mother. They abuse the boy, physically and emotionally.

Both Mrs. 'Arris and Mrs. Butterfield know that the mother abandoned Henry shortly after she remarried. Henry's father is a GI in the American Air Force, who, as far as Mrs. 'Arris knows, is still in America, having moved there shortly after Henry was born. (Henry's mom did not want to make the trip across the pond).

Mrs. 'Arris and Mrs. Butterfield are horrified of Henry's living conditions and the treatment that the Gussets bestow on him. Mrs. 'Arris wishes fervently that there was some way that she could bring Henry to America with her, track his father down, and reunite the duo. She believes that Henry's father is noble, respectable, and responsible, and will be delighted to be reunited with his son. After all, Mrs. 'Arris reasoned, he was a member of the Air Force!

Alas, Mrs. 'Arris knows down deep that she won't be able to save so much money in order to go on a trip to America and back.

But fate intervenes. The Schneiders, Joel and Henrietta, are Americans living in London. Joel works for a motion picture company, and Mrs. 'Arris is their char. Joel gets promoted to the company's presidency, and needs to move back to America. Henrietta is uncomfortable with the idea of having brand new servants in her new apartment on Park Avenue in New York, so she offers Mrs. 'Arris a job as her New York housekeeper. Mrs. 'Arris agrees, but only if Mrs. Butterfield is hired as the Schneiders' cook. Mrs. Schneider hires both women, and so our journey begins.

When Mrs. 'Arris accepts the job, she decides to come up with a plan to get Henry out of the Gussets' house. She decides to kidnap him and sneak him on the ship to America. Mrs. Butterfield is against the idea, and is so nervous that something is going to go wrong. Henry does sneak on the ship, but does so in a way that would be impossible to accomplish in this day and age. (Keep in mind that this novel was published in 1960. There are various references to President Eisenhower throughout the book).

Problems start to arise shortly before they come to America. Henry was able to get on the ship successfully, but how will he be able to get past American immigration? You will find out when you read this book; all I will say is that it's a fanciful, and unlikely way that he got across the border, but it's an idea that only Mrs. 'Arris could create.

Once in America, Mrs. 'Arris gets settled, then starts on her search for George Brown, Henry's father. She meets many George Browns. Wait until you come to the moment when she learns the identity of the George Brown in question. You can almost predict it.

This sequel dealt with a lot more serious matters than its predecessor: kidnapping, family, the differences between fantasy and reality, just to name a few. It's still a very sweet, touching book. As far-fetched as some of the plot elements are, you'll still find yourself rooting for the characters to pull through.

***This is the latest installment in my 100+ Reading Challenge, My 2nds Challenge, and my Support Your Local Library Challenge. Click on the buttons in the sidebars for reviews of the other books I've read in my challenges!***

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