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The Little Locksmith
The Little Locksmith begins in 1895 when a specialist straps five-year-old Katharine, then suffering from spinal tuberculosis, to a board with halters and pulleys in a failed attempt to prevent her being a "hunchback." Her mother says that she should be thankful that her parents are able to have her cared for by a famous surgeon; otherwise, she would grow up to be like the "little locksmith," who does jobs at their home; he has a "strange, awful peak in his back." Forced to endure "a horizontal life of night and day," Katharine remains immobile until age fifteen, only to find that she, too, has a hunched back and is "no larger than a ten-year-old child."
The Little Locksmith charts Katharine's struggle to transcend physical limitations and embrace her life, her body, and herself in the midst of debilitating bouts of frustration and shame. Her spirit and courage prevail, and she succeeds in expanding her world far beyond the boundaries prescribed by her family and society: she attends Radcliffe College, forms deep friendships, begins to write, and in 1921, purchases a house of her own in Castine, Maine. There she creates her home, room by room, fashioning it as a space for guests, lovers, and artists. The Little Locksmith stands as a testimony to Katharine's aspirations and desires—for independence, for love, and for the pursuit of her art.
"Rediscovered by The Feminist Press, this remarkably un-self-pitying book remains poignant and truthful. Hathaway's descriptions of the writing process are beautiful and on the mark. Hathaway treats the actual events in her life as practically irrelevant: the story she emphasizes is her spiritual and creative struggle to claim "selfish" time to write, her intense loneliness, her startlingly frank observations about her sexuality and her rebellion against the belief that an imperfect person does not experience desire."
"Katharine Butler Hathaway . . . was the kind of heroine whose deeds are rarely chronicled. . . . [She took] a life which fate had cast in the mold of a frightful tragedy and redesign[ed] it into a quiet, modest work of art. The life was her own. When [she] was five, she fell victim to spinal tuberculosis. For ten years she was strapped to a board . . . and for the rest of her life, though she could move about, she was hopelessly deformed. Her body never grew any larger than that of a ten-year-old child. Her imagination, her understanding of herself, and her vision of the modes by which her life could be transformed—these, however, grew greater and greater."
"No words can convey the fascination and charm of this story. It is a powerful revelation of spiritual truth, won by experience of the two worlds: the world seen and the world unseen."
“You must not miss it: indeed you will not be able to do so, for it will be with us for some time, and for you it will remain unescapable. . . . It is the kind of book that cannot come into being without great living and great suffering and a rare spirit behind it.”
"[This] book set[s] the bar for today's tell-all tales."