Read Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay Online


In a stark, troubling, yet ultimately triumphant celebration of self-determination, award-winning author A. Manette Ansay re-creates a stifling world of guilty and pain, and the tormented souls who inhabit it. It is 1972 when circumstance carries Ellen Grier and her family back to Holly's Field, Wisconsin. Dutifully accompanying her newly unemployed husband, Ellen has brouIn a stark, troubling, yet ultimately triumphant celebration of self-determination, award-winning author A. Manette Ansay re-creates a stifling world of guilty and pain, and the tormented souls who inhabit it. It is 1972 when circumstance carries Ellen Grier and her family back to Holly's Field, Wisconsin. Dutifully accompanying her newly unemployed husband, Ellen has brought her two children into the home of her in-laws on Vinegar Hill -- a loveless house suffused with the settling dust of bitterness and routine -- where calculated cruelty is a way of life preserved and perpetuated in the service of a rigid, exacting and angry God. Behind a facade of false piety, there are sins and secrets in this place that could crush a vibrant young woman's passionate spirit. And here Ellen must find the straight to endure, change, and grow in the all-pervading darkness that threatens to destroy everything she is and everyone she loves....

Title : Vinegar Hill
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780060897840
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Vinegar Hill Reviews

  • Melanie Moore
    2019-01-30 01:53

    I now know why Oprah gave away cars and other amazing gifts to the guest of her show. It was to combat the depression that the members of her book club had encountered over the years. If you see the Oprah’s Book Club logo on a book you are about to crack open, take your Zoloft now.Now, hear me out. I have never been disappointed with a book from the Oprah Book Club list. Drowning Ruth, Gap Creek, Jewel, The Pilot’s Wife. They are always amazing stories that will bring on a slue of intense emotions. I am no way suggesting you should shy away from them. Unless your dog just died.Vinegar Hill has an amazing cast of characters, 98% of which I wanted to strangle on a regular basis. If you follow me on Twitter, you would have seen tweets suggesting that I already had a deep hate for someone thirty pages in the book. My hate list just grew and grew. Then Ansay threw a monkey wrench into my hate wagon’s spokes and brought on the flashbacks. As the story unfolds, you get introduced to events that made these insanely obnoxious people the way they were.OH! Do I continue to hate them because they are assholes or do I walk a mile in their shoes? Damn you, Oprah! Damn you!I found myself wanting to give the characters advice. If I could pull her aside for just one minute and say, “Run! Run for your life!”. This is why non-book people think book people are crazy. I’m whispering life changing suggestions to fictional characters.What I hate about writing these reviews is avoiding spoilers. There is so much I want to tell you, but I don’t want to ruin it for you! Grab your Zoloft, grab Vinegar Hill. You can thank me for the multiple emotions you experience later.

  • Cindy
    2019-01-31 08:39

    To me, Oprah's Book Club seal of approval guarantees me at least a few of the following:1) Female, middle-aged protagonist, typically a mother 2) Generally bleak and depressing3) Emotional and/or physical abuse4) Jackass husband5) Horrible children6) DeathVinegar Hill offers 5 of the 6 - no horrible children. It's a very quick read - maybe not light enough fare for the beach but for the subway ride to and from work, it's perfect. A brief synopsis: Ellen + husband + their 2 kids are forced to move back into the house that her jackass husband grew up in and live together with his abusive and emotionally unavailable parents. Actually, everyone in this book is emotionally unavailable and also a little off their rocker so I bet you can imagine all the fun that will ensue. Oh yes. Reading this is akin to watching a train wreck - and who doesn't love a good train wreck? I couldn't turn away.

  • Shannon
    2019-02-06 02:57

    What is it with Oprah? Really. I don't always know when I'm reading an Oprah book (I come into possession of a lot of books with no covers somehow), but after I read this one I just knew it was on her list, had to be. It was very bleak, as most of her selections are, and had very little to make me want to finish it. If I hadn't been very bored at the time I probably wouldn't have. It's exhausting to read about constant sadness, and I hate stories that feature weak, mama's boy husbands.Just once Oprah should shock the world and recommend a happy book.

  • Nicki
    2019-02-22 04:39

    This just might be the worst book that I've ever read. Or at least the worst book that I've read in the last few years. I'm only adding it because I'm making a new shelf for books that I read in 2008 and this is one of them. I never would have picked it out myself but a co-worker brought it to me to read - so I felt obligated. Not very well written and depressing.

  • Debbie
    2019-02-20 00:32

    I’m crunching here at the end of the year trying to meet my goals on the book challenge. I chose a book with less than 300 pages and hoped for the best. This book had been sitting on my shelf for a little while and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This was actually a good read and I’m going to give it 4 stars. Vinegar Hill is one of the most appropriately named books I’ve read in a while. The Grier family is a family that is completely affected, influenced, formed, created and responding to the very “vinegar” that has been steeped into their individual lives. Adjectives that come to mind: raw, bitter, dysfunction, pain, fear, confusion, hurt, anger, in need of serious SERIOUS therapy every single one of them. James and wife Ellen have financial troubles so they take their two children and move back to the small town, cold home of his already completely dysfunctional parents Mary Margaret and Fritz. As a reader, we walk into an atmosphere that reeks of secrets, pain and a spirit of something very very wrong. I must say this author is so skillful because I literally felt this every time, as we read, we are in this house. If this house could talk, I’m sure it would cry. If it had ghosts, it would need an exorcism. The people who live here are all fighting past experiences that they have allowed to fester and form their current selves. Now forced to live in this overcrowded house together, things are coming to a head. This is their story. A. Manette Ansay is a very skillful author. I loved her style of writing because it is very unique. Vinegar Hill is very easily read. No analogies or symbolism to decipher here, just good writing. I enjoyed how each chapter unfolds a little more of the characters as well as involves the readers emotions in the story. I always believe if an author can get any kind of rise out of me, that’s good stuff. I was most definitely involved. The story is very raw and real. This could and may very well be some real family struggling somewhere. Do I recommend it? Yes I do. I will read this author again. I do recommend it to those enjoying the historical fiction genre because it does take place in 1972, however, it is more contemporary fiction. I give it 4 stars for the skill of the author, good story and emotional involvement. PS. I still want to magically jump into the book and knock a few folks in the head: some for sense, some for stupidity and some because bullies need put into their place no matter how old they are. Read the book and find out what I’m talking about. ;oP

  • Karyl
    2019-02-08 03:43

    I read this book in just two days. Obviously it is a very quick read, and I kept wanting to pick the book up again and read a few pages. Yes, this book is bleak and depressing, but it seems very realistic. Before divorce was as common as marriage, people stayed together no matter what, regardless of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse -- all of which occur to the women in this book. I find the end to be very hopeful; the wife decides to make a change right as her daughter stands on the brink of puberty. One hopes that she has saved her daughter in time from making the same mistakes. Other reviewers complain about the claustrophobic and bleak nature of the imagery, but for me it reinforces the claustrophobia and the bleak world in which the protagonist lives. When you're living in depression, you can barely see past your own nose, and the author did a wonderful job of expressing that.This isn't one of the best books that I have read, but it did hold my interest and occupy me for a couple of days. If you are one for light and amusing chick lit, I would not recommend this to you.

  • K.
    2019-02-19 00:43

    "What she wanted now was to frighten him with her own flesh, with what he had rejected; to make him feel ashamed the way he made her feel ashamed."Chosen for Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge - "an Oprah Book Club selection". To set the scene: we're in the midwest United States, in the 1970s. Ellen, James and their two children move back in with James's parents after he loses his job. He seems content to stay there, oh, forever, and Ellen could not conceive of anything worse. Their relationship, which we come to find out was only pushed to such a permanent state due to the impropriety of being stuck overnight together in a car during a blizzard, is barely existent. Ellen is so desperately unhappy; her mother-in-law Mary-Margaret is frail and bitter and caustic, her father-in-law has an explosive temper and quick fists.Ansay does her best to nudge you toward one view of Mary-Margaret (awful) through Ellen and her daughter's points-of-view, and then turns it around so we can get a glimpse of what it's like to be Mary-Margaret, with a Level Four Tragic Backstory. Don't get me wrong, it's terrible (child death and domestic abuse and marital rape), but I found it difficult to feel anything more than vague pity because she was still inflicting emotional pain onto others with her behavior in the present narrative.Ellen is troubled and depressed and angry and apathetic, all of which comes in waves. She finally learns some Real Truths about her husband's family (see: Tragic Backstory) and this, in the end, is when she is finally able to come to a decision for her own family. It is a very bittersweet ending, with only the slightest bit of hope to cut through the bleakness of the overall tone of the novel. I didn't dislike it, but god, was I ever sad after it ended.

  • Lori
    2019-02-05 05:50

    I'm giving this novel 3 stars only because of the quality of the writing. The actual story itself is morose, and rather self-indulgent... I'm afraid that novelists often feel that to write well they must include and focus upon the truly horrible aspects of life while ignoring any of the light. There was not one character in the novel I could relate to; they all seemed extraordinarily weak and childish. When Ellen, the pseudo main character, finally decides to use her backbone, the novel is suddenly over. No one else seems to experience much growth, though we are shown, in memory sequences, why everyone is as messed up as they are... and a lot of that seems to be based around how religion can be twisted to justify cruelty and misogyny. Which, let's face it, is a tired old Stephen King construct. So... I often caution against the bad writing/great story combination. Sorry to review one that is the exact opposite! Oh, and can we all agree that Oprah's Book Club picks are NOT to be trusted?

  • Margery
    2019-02-06 08:57

    Depressing.The writing is repetitive, and the visuals are uncreative and obviously depressing. She hits you over the head with the misery of her characters, but to what point?Shockingly mean and violent events abound, but again I saw no point. The only character that was suprred to action by the violent events is not even alive in the time line of the novel. We never meet her and it is only through the fog of time that she manages to "help" our main character. And that help is feeble, uncelebrated. Our main character seems to want to change, seems to suggest she might, but I have no faith that if the book continued she would change or find happiness. A book needs a point, and this book's point must have been to be pitied.

  • Kaleah
    2019-02-23 04:32

    This book is definitely not for everyone. It is stark and depressing. The characters are not likable. I would only read bits at a time, which is why it took me so long to finish it. However, it still resonated with me. For those who have grown up in a dysfunctional family, have been in a dysfunctional marriage, or have had negative experiences with strange, manipulative religion, you might appreciate this book. The author creates a perpetual winter with this story, both in setting and within the characters themselves. Bitterness is laced throughout, including in the title and the location of the house where the story takes place in, Vinegar Hill. Ellen, the main character, must find a way to live amongst vile in-laws, an emotionally absent husband, and demanding children, without allowing them to break her. The father-in-law is controlling and abusive, her mother-in-law an overly critical, hateful woman who carries her own secrets of pain and betrayal. Every character, no matter how horrible or weak they may be, has a past that helps paint a picture of why they turned out the way that they did. I appreciated the authenticity of this, and I believe it added richness to the story.Ellen also has to endure stifling religion perpetuated by everyone close to her, from the in-laws to her own sisters. The decisions that she faces are hard ones to make, especially considering that the story takes place in the '70's. She wrestles with her faith at times while trying to come to terms with the state of her life, her marriage, her happiness. This is the story of her journey through a very harsh winter, literally and metaphorically. Although the ending didn't seem to fit quite right in my opinion, this is a book that I will pick up from time to time to digest bits and pieces. It's somewhat like therapy in that sense, and it will, at the very least, probably make you feel better about any hard times you may be going through in your own life.

  • Dana
    2019-01-31 07:58

    Accordng to the Oprah Book Club reviews I have seen, most were negative. I decided to take a stab at one. WOW, now I completely understand why. In short this book is chaper after chapter of family dysfunction. Although I appreciate the author's sense of style where the ingredients are sprinkled throughout and eventually the full recipe is revealed. The end result is a tasteless tale. If you like books that leave you feeling mentally drained and you cannot help but skimming the last few pages because you just want it over with, then this book is for you.

  • Simi
    2019-01-30 05:33

    This is a bitter and depressing story about a woman who has to live with her furious and acrid in-laws and finds herself further estranged from her husband. She has two children whom she fights to raise well, but cannot in face of such utter hatred. The story itself was absorbing (I read it in one sitting in three hours from 11 pm to 2 am) but it was not very well structured or well written. The ending was disappointing, not for what happened, but for the way it was written. It felt like the author was trying to wrap up rather than let the story logically find its end.

  • Bridgit Barger
    2019-02-03 05:46

    I was disappointingly let down by "Vinegar Hill." Although the writing was solid and the characters well fleshed-out, I couldn't help but think that the back stories on some of the characters were too vague, and that the plot was unimaginative: a woman is discouraged by a troubled marriage and feels helpless. It all felt like it had been done before, and "Vinegar Hill" didn't really bring anything else to the table.

  • Jo Ann
    2019-02-03 02:33

    I picked this one up at a used book store on impulse, when I checked it out on GR I saw its ratings were on the low side, but my inner voice kept telling me to give it a chance. So glad I did. It's a tough read but so well worth it.

  • Velma
    2019-02-04 06:34

    This downer is not my cup of tea. Sure made me glad I wasn't a '60s-era Catholic wife, though.

  • pink (not just another shade of red)
    2019-02-16 00:59

    Bitter. Dark. Haunting.Vinegar Hill is so, so much darker than expected when I first picked up the book from a Book Sale. It tells of a story of a woman living in her own stifling world of marriage, religion, and expectations. Ellen Grier steps out of her in-laws house every night. For all appearances, Ellen looks like any other wife and mother out for her daily walk and the house looks like any other house, which shadows visible on its window any other old married couple. But, no. There are unspeakable secrets behind the flower curtains. There's cruelty distributed regularly along with dry roasts on white, daisy-decorated plates. And Ellen is a woman feeling trapped to the brink of desperation. She knows she can't stay on the same place but all her choices are stifled, her world(Midwestern 1970s) so utterly patriarchal, her husband stupidly stubborn or vice versa, and even her own family so traditional in its views about marriage and women. This alone is enough for the book to qualify as horror for me.A. Manette Ansay has a gift of cruelty. She captured it so well with little nuances, calculated words, and small acts of selfishness. I started hating everyone and everything about Vinegar Hill from first chapter. Even Ellen's helplessness grates on my nerves.Then of course, I learned some things about the characters' past, small and powerful glimpses which were so well-written and almost too hard to swallow that turned my hatred to mere dislike and eventually heartbreak. For of course, the characters in this book are not regular people at all. They are badly wounded, badly twisted animals trapped in one dark, loveless place. How can they not strike at each other?The book is a quick read with one apparent theme since page one to the last- Suffering. Never-ending suffering. Before you do anything, please, PLEASE don't read the book if you're already sad. Even I who was reasonably happy before reading it felt the need for a big bar of chocolate after.

  • Hyzie
    2019-02-13 02:50

    I don't care what the description says, there is nothing "triumphant" about this. I felt obligated to try an "Oprah's book club" book. I'm a woman, so these books are supposed to speak to me, right? Books I feel "obligated" to read are funny things. They either turn out to be amazing or dreadful. Guess which one this was.I'm not sure what kind of audience this book was written for. It it bears any resemblance to your life, it's going to depress you further. If it doesn't, it's just going to depress you, end of story. The one-dimensional characters plodded through their lives, lifting their heads long enough for a crop of flashback sequences that made it clear that their lives had always been full of the kind of bleak everyday horrors that made them the bleak horrible people they became. The story limps on to a conclusion that is no real conclusion at all. It just kind of stops. There is this vague suggestion that things are going to be better now, but it's almost impossible to believe it after the rest of the novel.

  • April
    2019-02-11 07:39

    I read this a few years ago so this review is not exactly "fresh" but I still remember how this book affected me. At the time I read the book I enjoyed it.. I couldn't put it down because you could just feel the tension building within the house and the family. It was like the author put a microscope on one family's situation and homelife and honed in on it and exposed it in the form of this book for everyone to see. It was at times disturbing - I wanted to sometimes step into the book and become a mediator but as in life, when you are so closely involved you can't see the big picture. Now, a few years after reading this I have a whole new appreciation for this book because my family had to move in with my grandparents for a couple years. It's surprising how the smallest things can blow up when tensions are running high within a tiny house with too many people. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a good read, or to understand what goes on behind closed doors of people who are forced to share a house together (family or not.)

  • Connie N.
    2019-01-26 03:49

    For those who rated this highly, I'm not quite sure what they found to rave about. (?) This book left an overall feeling of hopelessness and discouragement. It's about an extended midwestern German family of an older time (not quite sure when) and their sense of living according to God's word and their sense of duty to family. That way of life was often stern and forbidding, especially if you were unlucky enough to be forced into a loveless and unhappy marriage and/or born into a miserable childhood. Of course, those circumstances created some characters with very skewed thinking...I often found myself wondering who would possibly imagine such wild and incomprehensible thoughts. Not a happy book. I would have given it 1 star except that it was very readable. I liked the format of dividing the tale of woe into separate stand-alone stories which made it much more palatable.

  • Kellie
    2019-02-19 08:58

    This books takes place in the 70’s in the mid-west. Ellen and James are married and have 2 children, Amy and Herbert. Struggling financially, James decides they must move in with his parents. I don’t know if it was typical of the time or not, but James parents, Mary Margaret and Fritz, are the most sour, mean spirited people depicted in a book. I should have known, this being an Oprah book, that it would be sad, depressing and include a dysfunctional family. I do not see anything great about it. The thoughts were scattered and confusing. The book bounced from inside the head of one family member to another. I did see talent in the writing style but the depressing tone of this book took away from it. I think the only reason this book sold a million copies was because Oprah read it, otherwise it would be nothing special

  • Rebecca
    2019-02-15 02:51

    This book is about a strict Catholic's family dysfunction--but quite interesting. If you find it fascinating how people used to stay unhappily married for LIFE (despite verbal and/or physical abuse) and base the rationale as their religion then read this.My favorite part of the book is when the one of the characters looks down on another female character when she comments that she no longer has any desire for her husband in the bedroom. The other woman then belittles the woman saying that she should provide in the bedroom no matter what, and denying her husband of sex would be denying 'more little souls for God.' Amusing.

  • Manik Sukoco
    2019-02-14 08:32

    I read this book in just two days. Obviously it is a very quick read. I made it quick because it is bleak and depressing, but it seems very realistic. Before divorce was as common as marriage, people stayed together no matter what, regardless of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse - all of which occur to the women in this book. I find the end to be very hopeful; the wife decides to make a change right as her daughter stands on the brink of puberty. One hopes that she has saved her daughter in time from making the same mistakes. This isn't one of the best books that I have read, but it did hold my interest and occupy me for a couple of days. If you are one for light and amusing chick lit, I would not recommend this to you.

  • Wendy Welch
    2019-02-04 05:50

    What I learned from this book: that it is possible to be a beautiful writer and use your powers for evil rather than good. This book has WONDERFUL sentences, lovely flow, interesting angles, and it's so bloody depressing! I started skimming about 2/3 through because it was so depressing. A real mood piece, lovely images. Do what I did and keep a really nice chocolate bar on hand for when you finish. It will help keep you from sliding into utter despair.

  • Ellie Ness
    2019-02-23 05:56

    It has been a long time since I read The Women's Room but my partner then told me it was making me so angry that I should stop reading it. Vinegar Hill was similarly enraging. The characters in Vinegar Hill are so lacking in charm and empathy that the atmosphere is poisonous. The reasons why the characters behave as they do is explained towards the end of the book but the reasons are no excuse for the way things were in this household. Anyone wanting to know why equity in relationships is a *good thing* should be encouraged to read this novel and wonder if women's lives really were so controlled by small minded religious cultures in the 70s. If you have a good job and relationship now, thank the women who went before you and remember it was not always thus. Worth a read if you can manage to distance yourself from the lives of the main characters.

  • Judy Howard
    2019-02-20 08:42

    Vinegar Hill is a book I have read three times now. It is about a wife, mother, trying to cope with a husband who is dysfunctional. They have to live with his parents because he has lost his job. I think Vinegar Hill is a great book. Read it in 2008, 2016, and now 2017

  • Grace
    2019-02-11 00:56

    Probably the most depressing book I've read, but it still made me want to see where it was going. The ending was satisfying to me, so it made it worth the read.

  • L
    2019-02-19 02:29

    Oprah and I have never been on the same wavelength when it comes to literature, and I didn't realize this book was one of Oprah's blessed, which may have been enough to dissuade me. This book is so boring that there really isn't anything to review, it involves a very sad protagonist existing with her equally sad husband and his warped family, in the 1950's. Even the children are sad and unlovable as characters. There is the usual plight of women in that time, and also the theme of crazy in laws and family secrets, mind you, this couple was mild next to my own ex in laws. I feel like the protagonist was profoundly depressed, and while that is valid enough, it does not make for great reading. So many of this elderly couple's antics could have just been laughed at, these were very elderly people, they aren't about to change for anyone, you can only tolerate, laugh and roll your eyes I guess. But someow, the author did not allow us to laugh. The narrator did a fine job, and for that reason only did I finish this book, but then I regretted it, because I had been expecting at least some sort of epiphany or wild change to come about in the end...but no. The ending was flat. Nothing more than a maybe. A what if. A might. Just an idea. And that was already in my mind, I needed something to come to fruition, there was no satisfaction to be had for sticking it through with this story. None at all. It was almost as though the author was so bored and depressed by her own work that she just needed to stop writing, right now, for the sake of her own sanity. Just....done. Like a road to nowhere.

  • Christine Stavridis
    2019-02-08 07:43

    Emotionally this was a difficult book to read. I put it down a few times but am glad I kept reading and finished it.The story is told primairily through the voice of Ellen, mother and wife. However, the author is able to offer us glimpses into the minds of the other characters as well. This allow us to understand how two people can experience the seem events but in very different ways. Our experiences in life really can color our whole perception of reality. At times in the story I was shocked that the characters involved seemed incapable of recognizing their own story in the plight of others. Instead of offering kindness and understanding it appears they are only able to offer judgement and hostility. This books also makes me think about how much harder our mothers and grandmothers had things. The freedoms we as women take for granted simply were not granted to previous generations. We are reminded how much of an impact our words and actions, especially those of parents, can have. One of the main characters is so damaged by his childhood that he is incapable of having healthy family life. There are examples throughout the story of a someones actions or words long ago continuing to impact the lives of future generations.Although emotionally difficult at times it is well worth reading. The end does leave me wondering if change is possible and a bit hopeful.

  • Rebecca Scaglione
    2019-02-11 07:48

    Oprah really does a great job with her book picks, and Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay is no exception.Ellen’s husband James lost his job, and instead of being proactive to find a new one, he moves them and their two children, Amy and Herbert, to his parents’ house in another state.Wouldn’t be too terrible except that James’s dad is abusive both physically to James and verbally to everyone. And his mother is not nice at all to anyone in the family except for her beloved James, her baby who cannot do any wrong.Ellen is miserable, the kids are miserable, seems like James’s parents aren’t too happy either, but James is perfectly content.Will Ellen ever get up the courage to make some decisions on her own and make a change to better her family, with or without James?This book is a more subtle read about family that, although it’s not some mind-blowing plot, kept me interested from page 1. Worth the read. But don’t take my word for it, Oprah did choose it a few years ago for her book club.Are you a fan of Oprah’s book choices?Thanks for reading,Rebecca @ Love at First Book

  • Michael
    2019-02-18 08:51

    Normally I do not like Oprah book recommendations, we differ in taste. However I wanted to read this book based on a friend review and needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The one thing that caught my attention while reading this book was the language. The story was very evocative, it was almost like you were actually a character going through the journey with them all. Ellen Grier voice was haunting, the trials she went through as a mother & wife was heartbreaking. I can tell that she really loved her kids, wanting nothing more to sweep them away to somewhere safe. Although her home was a haven, there were so much resentment in her household. James, her reckless husband did not even show affection for his own children. In addition to not being concerned about their affairs, his past defined who he was as an individual.This book touched me deeply, some parts were disturbing to read. Not to take away anything from the beauty of the novel but reading through all of the sufferings was difficult. I happen to enjoy this novel tremendously and looking forward to reading more novels by Ansay.