All unhappy families are alike, to invert Tolstoy, but each happy family is happy in its own way. Although they live in a rambling white house in a midwestern town called Meadows, the Cutters are too irreducibly real to stand in for the average all-American family created by pollsters, popular magazines, and television sitcoms.
They compete for the reader's attention, pursuing happiness in human ways that have not changed since 1926, when The Cutters was first published. But it is Nell Cutter who best illustrates Bess Streeter Aldrich's strength in drawing memorable characters. Whether she is decorating the house on a budget for wealthy guests or testing child-raising theories or trying to make the daily loaf a little more yeasty, Nell Cutter is not afraid to ex-periment. She may go out on a limb, but it is seldom a dead one.