Reviews and Endorsements

“At last! — an in-depth look at how Edith Lewis, the woman with whom Willa Cather lived in domestic partnership for almost forty years, was central to both her life and her literary career. By foregrounding the crucial role played by Lewis (remarkable in her own right), Homestead gives us valuable new insights into the way Cather, the artist, worked and the way Cather, the woman who loved women, lived her life.” — Lillian Faderman, author of To Believe In Women: What Lesbians Have Done for America — a History

“Melissa Homestead has accomplished something beautiful and profound: she has recovered a decades-long relationship that has been ignored and minimized, introducing us to the complex life of Edith Lewis and reframing what we thought we knew about Willa Cather and her writing. The research is remarkable, the product of years of dogged work, and it is woven together to tell a story of love and creativity that we all need to know. I cherish the book and the vision it offers.” — Andrew Jewell, co-editor of The Complete Letters of Willa Cather

“Melissa Homestead has written The Only Wonderful Things…to rescue Edith Lewis from the oblivion to which other biographers have consigned her. This book is a meticulously researched portrait of the life that Cather and Lewisshared as partners in what used to be called a “Boston marriage”…..What makes The Only Wonderful Things such a fascinating book is its detailed portrait of a relationship between two ambitious women who lived at a time when a Boston marriage was becoming openly sexualized.” Andrew Holleran Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide.

“Homestead’s thesis is utterly convincing: it names the very thing that has been shied away from since the fifties, as Cather’s authorial reputation was being written into American literary history. The Only Wonderful Things is not only a major new biography of the author, it provides us with an especially intimate, decades-long portrait of a lesbian partnership in the early twentieth century….The book also offers us the opportunity to reflect on the making of a modern American literary canon during the midcentury: a period of particularly repressive, anti-gay and misogynist backlash.  Homestead’s writing is careful, touching, and impassioned, even as the research is thorough and impeccably done. ” Geneva Gano in Cleveland Review of Books

“Biographers rarely devote much attention to their main subjects’ spouses or partners unless they are famous themselves … and such has certainly been the case with Willa Cather. Cather’s longtime partner, Edith Lewis, whom Cather met in 1903 and lived with from 1908 until her death in 1947, is almost entirely absent from the most important scholarly biographical treatments of Cather…. Homestead is the first to recover the central and influential role Lewis played in Cather’s life and in her writing career. Homestead convincingly argues that this role was purposely hidden in the 1950s out of concern on the part of friends and biographers that if Cather were viewed as gay it would negatively impact her literary legacy….[T]his meticulously researched book is a very important addition to the literature on Cather.” Summing up: Essential. Charles Johanningsmeier in Choice Reviews

“[A] masterpiece of scholarly literary biography….Homestead restores Lewis to her proper place as Cather’s ‘invisible hand,’ and makes a major contribution to queer American cultural history.” Summing up: Essential. Nicholas Birns in Choice Reviews.

“Homestead honors Lewis’s pain with tenderness and reverence, prioritizing space within the narrative to allow the grieving Lewis to be seen fully and truthfully as the widow she was. These difficult scenes do not detract from the revelatory splendor of The Only Wonderful Things, as Homestead has managed to expose the hard truths without sacrificing the beauty and pleasure of Cather and Lewis’s shared existence. This balanced perspective alters previous images of Cather, ultimately reframing how we interpret her personal and writing life.” Charmion Gustke in Resources for American Literary Study

“This work is critical for scholars of Cather as well as those interested in the relationship between these two accomplished women.” Jillian L. Wenburg in Nebraska History Magazine

“In Homestead’s book, Cather’s partner Edith Lewis emerges as a fascinating figure: intellectually sophisticated, professionally accomplished, and socially skilled…Described by a coworker as ‘the best boss I ever had, the most intelligent, the most just, the kindest, and the bluntest,’ Lewis brought these qualities to the editing of Cather’s most celebrated novels.” Evan Carton in the Provincetown Independent

“By demonstrating how some of Cather’s most powerful, compressed sentences—the style for which she was celebrated—were in fact the result of revisions by Lewis, Homestead reassesses the nature of Cather’s authorship, not diminishing individual creativity but illuminating the power of collaboration. In a literary world in which single authorship is most prized, in which the lone genius produces masterwork, Homestead demonstrates the efficacy of another form of artistry generated by creative and professional reciprocity.” Jennifer Haytock inTulsa Studies in Women’s Literature

The Only Wonderful Things paves the way for further studies depicting the partnerships that sustain and shape the lives of writers—studies that, like this one, avoid prioritizing one partner over the other and instead position writers and their partners as coequals.” Kelsey Squire in Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association

“This book is cause for celebration….For decades, the Cather industrial complex, skittish that any hint of sapphism might tarnish the reputation of Nebraska’s first lady of letters, seemed eager to downplay the significance of the woman Cather chose as her literary executor and trustee….Melissa Homestead’s long-awaited book is a truly wonderful thing for Cather studies.” Marilee Lindemann in Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers