Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping (1980) tells the story of Ruthie, a quiet, friendless girl living in a remote Idaho town called Fingerbone. The train that travels into the cold mountains of Fingerbone crosses a lake that has claimed the lives of Ruthie's grandfather by accident and her mother by suicide, leaving Ruthie and her younger sister Lucille with their grandmother, Sylvia Foster. When Sylvia passes away, her two sisters-in-law move to Fingerbone to take care of the girls. Though pleasant and dutiful, Misses Lily and Nona Foster enjoy their solitude. After the first hard winter, they leave Ruthie and Lucille in the hands of a younger guardian, the girls' aunt Sylvie, who returns home after sixteen years. Sylvie, their mother's younger sister, is a boxcar drifter content with her itinerant lifestyle, but she commits to staying in Fingerbone to keep house and raise the girls. She has little experience with either and becomes like a "mermaid in a ship's cabin." Most days, she wanders to the lake by the train tracks and drifts in a stolen rowboat. In a house soon covered in soot and cobwebs, cans and newspapers, she feeds the girls from jelly jars and plates made from detergent boxes. Ruthie takes it all in stride, but her sister, Lucille, sees the other children in town and wants no part of Sylvie's world. Whereas the sisters are inseparable through much of their young lives, they begin to grow apart in their teenage years. Lucille matures into a prissy woman who swings her hips and sews her own dresses; Ruthie remains a tall, gangly child with a buzzard's hunch and a distaste for school. Soon their lives, like the house and the town and their dark family history, get lost in the tangled overgrowth of loneliness and neglect. The family ties that have kept them together can hold them no more. In language as lyrical and lush as the landscapes it describes, Robinson tells a haunting story of the permanence of loss and the transitory nature of love. She reminds us that, despite the fragility of human relationships, our desires to hold onto them are what make us whole.