Nearly forty years have passed since Ruth Hyde Paine, a Quaker housewife in suburban Dallas, offered shelter and assistance to a young man named Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife, Marina. For nine months in 1963, Mrs. Paine was so deeply involved in the Oswalds' lives that she eventually became one of the Warren Commission's most important witnesses.Mrs. Paine's Garage is the tragic story of a well-intentioned woman who found Oswald the job that put him six floors above Dealey Plaza-into which, on November 22, he fired a rifle he'd kept hidden inside Mrs. Paine's house. But this is also a tale of survival and resiliency: the story of a devout, open-hearted woman who weathered a whirlwind of investigation, suspicion, and betrayal, and who refused to allow her enmeshment in the calamity of that November to crush her own life.Thomas Mallon gives us a disturbing account of generosity and secrets, of suppressed memories and tragic might-have-beens, of coincidences more eerie than conspiracy theory. His book is unlike any other work that has been published on the murder of President Kennedy.
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Knopf Group E-Books
December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Mrs. Paine's Garage by Thomas Mallon
There would be bad news from Dallas tomorrow. But as 5:30 approached on this warm Thursday afternoon, Ruth Paine had little time to think about her pending divorce. As usual, she was in the midst of errands, driving her station wagon back from the supermarket with groceries for her own small, sundered family as well as the other oddly intact one that had been grafted onto it these last several months.
A copy of the divorce petition, which Ruth had filed eight days ago, was right now being postmarked near the offices of her lawyer in the Rio Grande National Building downtown. The dated facts in it -- that she and Michael had been married on December 28, 1957, in Pennsylvania, and produced two children, Lynn (b. 1959) and Christopher (b. 1961), before separating "on or about September 1, 1962" -- were more accurate than the supposed crux of the document, its declaration that her husband, now "the defendant," had "about six months before their said separation, commenced a course of unkind, harsh, cruel and tyrannical treatment... of such a nature as to render their further living together insupportable."
The legal boilerplate hardly described the painfully civilized breach between Ruth and Michael, or the temperate good will he showed whenever he now visited from his own apartment over in Grand Prairie. The two of them probably still saw more movies together than the average couple living under one roof. But the law was the law, and it required stern lies in the matter of divorce, even one arrived at as quietly as this.
Driving down Fifth Street, crossing Westbrook Drive, Ruth was surprised by a picture of domesticity that suddenly came into view. There, up ahead, under the oak tree on her own front lawn, stood Lee and Marina, playing with Junie in apparent contentment. The Oswalds, in contrast to the Paines, might bitch and bicker with each other much of the time -- Lee had bawled out Marina over the phone just three nights ago -- but their own separation was partial, temporary, and economic. Most nights Lee lived in a rooming house downtown, on North Beckley, closer to the book-warehouse job that Ruth had helped him get last month; Marina and Junie, and now four-week-old Rachel, stayed here with her in Irving, joined by their "Papa" on weekends, when the population of the four-room house would swell to seven. Ruth expected the situation to last until Christmas, perhaps a little longer, after which she would have to deal with missing Marina as she still dealt with missing Michael.