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The Maid, Nita Prose

May 24, 2022

The Maid, by Nita Prose, is a charming little mystery where everything comes out all right. Initially I confused this title with Maid by Stephanie Land, but it could not be more different. After reading Prose’s novel, narrated by Molly the maid, however, I found that certain elements of it could be confused with elements in the story of Kya in Where the Crawdads Sing, the story of a girl who has grown up almost entirely alone and doesn’t always understand social cues. There are moments in each novel where readers might suspect that the protagonist they’re rooting for is a killer, hoping that she is not.

I find it hard not to root for anyone who is telling a story in first person. And Molly seems to be refreshingly without airs, introducing herself by telling readers about her name, her appearance, and then her job, saying “I know we’re all supposed to aspire to become doctors and lawyers and rich real-estate tycoons. But not me. I’m so thankful for my job that I pinch myself every day. I really do.” A few pages later she tells us that “I often have trouble with social situations; it’s as though everyone is playing an elaborate game with complex rules they all know, but I’m always playing for the first time.” So readers come to realize that Molly is neurodivergent. But that makes her more sympathetic, as we’re seeing the world as she sees it.

We see some things before Molly figures them out, like that her boyfriend Wilbur is taking advantage of her when she relates that “Wilbur began asking me all kinds of questions about the hotel and what it was like to clean a room. I was more than happy to explain the peculiar joy of making hospital corners with freshly pressed sheets and how a polished brass doorknob in the sunshine turns the whole world to gold. I was so engrossed in sharing that I didn’t notice him watching me type in Gran’s PIN.”

Molly lives in the apartment where she grew up with her Gran, who died nine months before the action of the novel begins. She misses her, not least for the way she used to help Molly weigh what happened to her during the day. Without her, Molly is occasionally forced to ask for help from others, like when some of her co-workers call her a name she doesn’t understand, although she understands the ridiculing tone of their remarks. When she is attracted to one of her co-workers, the barman named Rodney, Molly doesn’t ask for advice or even listen to her instincts, which tell her that, as she says, “I’m not quite putting the pieces together properly.”

Molly uses a puzzle metaphor because she’s trying to figure out how to react to the behavior of her co-workers after she discovers a body in one of the hotel rooms she cleans. For most of the novel, she is blind to the behavior of Rodney because of her attraction to him. He is the one she calls for help when circumstances start to make her look guilty of murder, and readers experience a little thrill of fear when he assures her “everything’s going to turn out just fine. Leave everything to me” because they know, as she does not, that his idea of “fine” pertains only to himself, and he is about to try to pin the murder on her.

Occasionally Molly sees something before we figure it out, like when the police detective who is questioning her about her discovery of the body asks “does it ever make you angry? Being a maid, I mean? Cleaning up after rich people? Taking care of their messes?” and Molly thinks “I’m impressed by this line of questioning” and asks the detective the same question, saying “you want this mess cleaned up and so do I. We both seek a tidy closure to this unfortunate situation.”

Everything comes out right in the end and Molly even gets to have her say about the way everyone has been treating her, saying “I’ve learned to doubt myself and my perceptions of the world around me. I do realize I’m different, you know, different from most. What I perceive isn’t what you perceive. Plus, people don’t always listen to me. I’m often afraid I won’t be believed, that my thoughts will be discounted. I’m just a maid, a nobody.” Of course, at this moment, she is demonstrating how that’s wrong, that she is a person who can show others why it’s wrong to discount someone’s perceptions just because they see the world differently.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2022 3:34 am

    Sweet that she figures it out. Do you know anything about the writer? From the inside is different as written from the outside in how much weight you give the character as accurate.

    • May 27, 2022 9:50 am

      I’ve read a little about the writer; she is Nita Pronovost, the vice president and editorial director at Simon & Schuster in Toronto. This woman knows her way around a good plot!

  2. May 24, 2022 6:55 am

    Ahahahah, I am learning for the very first time that this is a different book from Maid by Stephanie Land. Great! Great. It sounds like the kind of mystery I would enjoy, which is perfect because I am trying to read more mysteries. Remind me, have you read Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture? It sounds like it has some stuff in common with this book, and I really loved it.

    • May 27, 2022 9:54 am

      I have not read Elizabeth Little’s Pretty as a Picture. Soon I will, and then we can discuss whether it has stuff in common with this book!

  3. May 24, 2022 8:19 am

    This was a fun read. It’s the kind of book I can recommend to pretty much anyone, which is sometimes hard to find in library land. (Not too much cursing, not too violent, not too risqué.) I’m grateful when they come around.

    • May 27, 2022 9:55 am

      What an interesting way to think about books. Of course, you’re right. This is a book for anyone!

      • May 28, 2022 8:09 am

        Yes, I really have to think about the person asking for a recommendation at the library and what kinds of things they can tolerate. We have a lot of older and more conservative patrons who don’t like books with anything that I mentioned! It’s challenging sometimes!

  4. May 24, 2022 11:22 am

    Clearly worth more than a cursory look – well, as far as I’m concerned anyway!

    • May 27, 2022 9:56 am

      I really enjoyed it. (I haven’t read the Stephanie Land book but watched the tv series based on it, and it’s more serious; much harder going.)

  5. May 31, 2022 9:52 am

    I’m going to have to come back and read your whole review after reading the book! I’m on a long holds list at the library for it. I used to be wary of celebrity book club choices, but the ones I’ve read recently (e.g. Remarkably Bright Creatures, The Paper Palace, and something else I can’t think of) I have liked! I’ve also usually liked the Oprah book club selections.

    • June 6, 2022 10:07 am

      It’s hard to imagine that anyone’s endorsement could spoil the surprises of this novel!


  1. Pretty as a Picture | Necromancy Never Pays

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