From the very first page of Nita Prose’s debut novel, The Maid, (Penguin Random Houses Canada), we are mini voyeurs sitting on the edges of Molly’s every thought as she weaves us through the extraordinary events that happened in her life over a tumultuous five-day period.
A maid at the sumptuously elegant Grand Regency Hotel, Molly is well aware of the irony inherent in her name and the cleaning duties that the moniker ‘Molly Maid’ universally defines.
Molly is different — she is certainly identified as such by her cleaning peers who tend to make fun of her when her back is turned—but although she might appear slow, it’s actually more that she’s thinking hard on her responses before disbursing her thoughts on the topic. In fact, Molly is wonderful in her acceptance that she is offbeat —and not like everyone else—which she celebrates and uses to her advantage.
“I’m your maid. I’m the one who cleans your hotel room, who enters like a phantom when you’re out gallivanting for the day, no care at all about what you’ve left behind, the mess, or what I might see when you’re gone,” she shares with the reader.
Prose’s illustrative imagery paints a backdrop that is better than any photograph, describing mundane chores that Molly executes with precise and poignant intent: “tossing out the receipts you don’t want anyone to discover.”
Seemingly unworldly and naïve, with limited social skills, yet possessing a keen intuitive sense of observation, Molly lives with her Gran, who was, until her unseemly death, the most important person in her life. Along with their passion for watching ongoing episodes of the detective show “Columbo” Gran shares with her granddaughter untold golden nuggets and learnings on life, such as the importance of the three E’s: Etiquette, Elocution, and Erudition. Gran also teaches Molly the importance of having a Fabergé Egg savings plan, which unfortunately had (already) been pilfered once by a scallywag ex of Molly’s.
And while cleaning rooms might feel like a menial task to many, Molly takes great delight in returning guest rooms to a “state of perfection.” She revels in donning her crisp uniform every day, which hangs from her locker door, and celebrates filling her trolley cart with Crabtree & Evelyn soaps and shampoos.
Interestingly, while her level of sophistication is such that she sings happy birthday to herself three times to make sure that she’s brushed every last molar properly, Molly is also quite adept at making friends with an interesting cast of relatable characters, ones who the reader ends up either loving or hating.
These include Molly’s supervisor, Cheryl, who steals the other maids’ tips; the proverbial cad Rodney, who Molly has quite a crush on; the elusive Juan Manuel, a refugee with non-landed status, who is being manipulated by drug thugs; Molly’s boss, Mr. Snow, who describes Molly as being, “One of a kind in all of the right ways.”
There are of course two characters central to the plot that must be mentioned: Mr. Charles Black, a successful real estate tycoon, and his second wife, the young ‘kept woman’ Giselle, who Charles likes to abuse—that is, until Molly finds him ‘dead in bed’—an event that makes her a prime suspect in the eyes of one Detective Stark.
The subtle innuendos in Prose’s phrases shine with such symbolism that I found myself stopping mid-sentence to savour their details:
“His lock of hair wigs back and forth on his head.”
“Chattering on like a morning sparrow.”
“Hugging her was like caressing the wing of a butterfly.”
“Her voice was different, like a flat tire if it could talk.”
The wit that Prose gifts Molly with, and the investigative skills she attributes to her, while at the same time staying true to Molly’s different perspective and lens on the world, is both a twister of hidden and surprising nuggets, (you will identify with what I am talking about when you get to this situation, an event that elicited a spontaneous I-didn’t-see-that-coming WOW from me), as well as a gorgeous piece of writing.
“I am your maid. I know so much about you. But when it comes down to it: what is it that you know about me?”
Pre order your copy of The Maid, here available January 4th.
You will never look at your hotel maid the same.
Cece is the feature cover writer for several prestigious publications and is an informed, connected and enthusiastic book blogger at cecescott.com. Her first book, The Love Story, was published in 2019. Her second book, (2021) a Pocketful of Dreams is available for purchase here A Pocketful of Dreams | An Immigrant’s Journey.
Cece is also working on a book of Daily Reflections for Auto Immune Condition Warriors.
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