Landscape of a Marriage

More often than not the sacrifices, intellect, and devotion of the partners of famous personalities are forgotten. They live in the shadows of the many accomplishments of these stars. In Landscape of a Marriage, Gail Ward Olmsted gives life to Mary Olmsted who was the wife of the famous American landscape architect, Frederick Olmsted. When Mary lost her first husband to tuberculosis, she turned to his family for help with raising three young kids. What she received in return was nothing short of a blessing. Her deceased husband’s brother, Fred, offered to marry her. Although this was a marriage born out of obligation, it soon transformed into a beautiful union of love. As Mary and Fred overcame the early conflicts of marriage, they became stronger as a couple. Together, they weathered many storms that life threw at them: loss of loved ones, financial upheavals, and emotional turmoil. Amidst the chaos, Mary stood tall like an unwavering soldier holding the fort in Fred’s long absences. Unaware of her contributions, she extended all the credit to her husband. Toward the end, however, the realization that she was the integral part of his success became the highlight of her journey.

I had worth beyond raising children and running a household.

– Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted

Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted is not only the biography of a woman “made of sterner stuff,” but is also a retelling of the major historic events of 19th century America. Even though Landscape of a Marriage celebrates Mary, the author leaves no stone unturned in giving equal attention to the other people that crossed her path. As with most other historical fictions, the author has taken certain liberties with the story. However, Gail Ward Olmsted’s strength lies in weaving the truth with the fictional parts seamlessly. Instead of simply listing down the important movements and events of the history, the author made the characters participate in them. Consequently, the audience sees how such events affected the lives and mindset of the people caught in those timelines. Observing the reflection through their eyes ensured that the readers will not only acknowledge but also comprehend the significance of the days gone by.

… but news of H.H. Holmes, the Chicago ‘Devil’ and his murder trial often took center stage. While I preferred to ignore the gory details of the ‘Murder Castle’ where many of the killings were reported to have taken place, the trial fascinated me. There was already talk of a public hanging, should the thirty-five-yeat-old Holmes be found guilty.

– Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted

The author’s ability to tell an engaging historic tale is paralleled by her skill of expressing palpable emotions. In her lifetime, Mary suffered the discomfort of living away from her husband for long stretches of months, the heartbreaking loss of kids and her first husband. Each grief threatened to render her lifeless; however, the responsibility of raising and supporting the rest of her family always put her back on track. Gail Ward Olmsted has done a beautiful job of putting down such intense emotions into heartwarming words. True to the title, Ladscape of a Marriage delves into the numerous aspects of a marriage, including the compromises and achievements, rewarding its audience with the first row seat of the Olmsted family.

Is that what marriage was all about? Periods of happiness and contentment between the drips of illness and disagreements? If so, they should give new brides umbrellas as wedding gifts. Something to ward off all those dreadful drips…

– Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted

Ladscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted is one of those books that holds its readers by a patient storytelling that is worthy of spending many quiet afternoons together. And the unforgettable historical events that peek through the life of Mary are the testaments of the profound research done by the author. It is a must-read for anyone who loves to look at the history through the eyes of the people who lived in it.

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