An affecting and arresting exploration of young Black womanhood and motherhood in the mid-20th century ... Johnson’s talents are in full bloom in this layered story with two distinctive and compelling young Black women at the center ... Johnson effectively attends to Ruby’s and Eleanor’s interior lives as well as their circumstances. The one drawback as a reader is the gap between the quality of the social and psychological observation, world building, and ideas Johnson tackles regarding women’s lives and social hierarchies and the writing, which doesn’t rise to the same heights. At times, lines that are meant to be conversational or colloquial feel rote or cliched. And yet, such issues are relatively small. The novel’s great beauty lies in the truth it depicts.
Alternating Ruby’s and Eleanor’s chapters offers an exceptional device for drawing out these parallel stories and building tension as to when and how they will intersect ... Johnson’s approach reinforces this impulse by having Ruby narrate her own story, while a close third person speaks for Eleanor. The House of Eve spotlights many thorny issues, including... countless layers of absorbed racism ... The House of Eve leaves readers with a yearning for closure, for something tidy and reassuring, which of course is not at all how the world works.
Johnson methodically develops the women’s worlds and draws subtle hints at the similarities in their experiences, and after their pregnancies, they’re brought together in a bittersweet denouement. This well-crafted work is bound to provoke discussion among readers about the conflicts women face regarding pregnancy.