Eileen Obser’s ‘Three Rooms, Shared Bath’: Confessions of a Hamptons Landlady

Eileen Obser's boo "Three Rooms, Shared Bath."

By Tom Clavin

For those who can carve out time during a hectic time of year, the author and teacher Eileen Obser will be discussing her new novel, “Three Rooms, Shared Bath,” next Thursday, August 19, at 6 p.m. as part of the East Hampton Library’s “Author Talk” series.

The subtitle offers more about the story: “A Landlady In the Hamptons.” Drawing on her own experiences over the years, Obser tells the tale of Diana Long, a middle-aged widow who rents rooms in her East Hampton home and the relationships she forms with the tenants. The novel is set in late summer 2008 as the Democratic Party nominates Barack Obama to run for president and also when Diana ponders if she is stuck in a rut. Tenants come and go but she stays in place, and she is caught between wanting to break free of her carefully preserved routine and the simple comforts that routine provides.

The relationships portrayed are not just with her tenants. Diana’s late husband is still very much a presence in her life, and his memory competes with the real-life affections of Frank, a genial friend who wants more from her than the occasional dinner date. Later in the story, at the annual Shinnecock Powwow, she meets Tom, a visiting Sioux Indian, and sparks fly. Meanwhile, Diana juggles the schedules and eccentricities of her various tenants, especially Basia, who transfers her hoarding ways to Diana’s home … but, at least, she sure can clean.

Obser’s previous book was “Only You,” a memoir of her early life and marriage at a young age. “Three Rooms, Shared Bath” is somewhat of a memoir, too, though the author can take advantage of the freedom of fiction. This book is not necessarily a “summer read” — but this is an especially good time of year to enjoy it.

For more information about the presentation on August 19, go to easthamptonlibrary.org. The event is both live and virtual. East Hampton Library is at 159 Main Street, East Hampton.