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Judith Tarr

Household Gods
Tor , 1999
Barnes & Noble


Divorcee Nicole Gunther Perrin raises her two children by herself while working as an attorney. Recently, her firm passed her over and promoted a male lawyer to a job she feels she earned. She was already angry with most males after her ex-spouse left her for a younger piece of flesh and never sends his child support payments on time. The loss of her baby-sitter leaves a weary Nicole wistfully wishing upon the statues of the Roman Gods Vesper and Vespera that they transport her to Carnuntum. No one has worshipped these two Gods for over a millennium. They decide to reward the first person to call on them in all that time by granting her wish. When Nicole awakens, she finds herself living as a tavern keeper in the Roman frontier town of Carnuntum. She quickly learns that 170 AD has its share of vices as much as 1999 America does. Women remain second class citizens and slavery abounds. Hygiene is non-existent. In spite of all this, Nicole notices that most people seem happy with their lot in life and she hopes to do likewise. Household Gods centers on the belief that no place or time is perfect, but society and its individuals must strive to correct its woes. Nicole learns that lesson rather quickly through her time travel adventure. Still, she remains a strong survivor whether she dwells in the present era or in a dinky backwater Roman town almost two millenniums ago. The audience will love this tale, especially the in-depth look at daily living in the Roman Empire outer perimeter. Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove combine their immense skills on a fascinating, thought- provoking and unforgettable novel that is sure to provide them with much acclaim. -Harriet Klausner 8/99

- Harriet Klausner, 12/19/2005

Be careful what you ask for. You might just get it. Nicole Gunther-Perrin has had a bad day. Her ex-husband is late (as usual) with the child support, her baby-sitter is decamping to Mexico, her law career is in trouble, and her 4-year-old has just puked in her car. In despair at the struggles of her modern life, she wishes to be transported to simpler time--and the Roman gods Liber and Libera take pity on her and grant her wish. She wakes up in the 2nd Century AD, in the body of a tavern-keeping ancestress, in a small Roman town on the Danube. She soon discovers just how good she had it in 20th Century America. Roman life is short and lousy (literally), and pestilence, war, and famine are never that far away. Violence is immediate, commonplace, and a subject of entertainment. Slavery exists. Sanitation is spotty, and alcohol is the only safe thing to drink. Her ancestress has a lover whose business requires collecting urine from passersby. And Nicole's 20th-Century knowledge doesn't give her the ability to remedy any of these things, although her customers at the taberna do notice she's come up with a really good new way to fry fish. To this casual scholar of ancient history, Tarr and Turtledove have done an excellent job of re-creating the sensual experience of living in an ancient town--the tastes, the sights, the feels, and the smells, oh God, the smells. It's fun watching Roman life break down Nicole's 20th-Century prejudices and prudery, and turn her into a more likeable human being--although it is a little hard to believe that a well-educated lawyer could be *quite* as ignorant as Nicole about some well-known facets of ancient life. This book also features a cameo appearance by a Well-Known Historical Personage, which seems to be mandatory in historical fiction; as well as the sack of a city by barbarians, which makes it exciting. Is it good? Well, it won't rival _Gone With the Wind_ for character development, although the historical detail is similarly evocative. The resolution seemed a *little* weak, but all-in-all it's a gripping, and just plain *good* time-travel novel, and I recommend it not only to fans of the authors but to any readers of the genre or with an interest in the period. You won't be disappointed. Joy Haftel Luckabaugh 9/99

- Joy Haftel Luckabaugh, 9/1/1999

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