My mother had (and as far as I know still has) an old battered copy of this book which I read and fell in love with back when I was in high school. I recently re-read it, and fell in love with it all over again.
Rest and Be Thankful is about Sarah (Sally) Bly and Mrs. Peel, long-term traveling companions, who by accident happen upon a ranch in Wyoming, love it, and sponsor a writing retreat there. The setting is gorgeous, the characters well-developed, and the pacing restful while still maintaining interest. When I sit down with this book, I find I can truly relax.
I love the descriptions of people. I love the way Sally and Mrs. Peel let Wyoming-inspired independence help them let go of their insecurities and break free from bad patterns of relating to people. I love the way the book (gently but firmly) champions the idea that the second half of life can be every bit as interesting as the first. I love that there’s romance–love blooming in midlife.
I also love the glimpse this gave me of a writing life–or rather several writing lives–and opened my eyes to the possibility that this was a career path real people might tread. (I get the irony of it being fictional characters showing me that, but isn’t that what well-done stories are about–immersing us in worlds we might not have the opportunity to experience without them?)
There might be just a touch too much communist-bashing in here–but even that is often quite funny, and the critique of literary snobbishness, whether connected to communism or not, is spot on. ( I also completely agree with MacInnes’ main characters that the “realist” school of fiction selected only very depressing realities to depict, and that true “realism” should embrace good as well as bad. Of course, I usually stick to writing sci-fi and fantasy, so what do I know about realism?)
Anyway, I’d highly recommend this book, particularly for folks who like romance and who aren’t too set on breakneck pacing in their stories.