This is a tragic 19th century love story. The main characters are Ethan Frome, his wife Zenobia, called Zeena, and her young cousin Mattie Silver. Frome and Zeena marry after she nurses his mother in her last illness. Although Frome seems ambitious and intelligent, Zeena holds him back. When her young cousin Mattie comes to stay on their New England farm, Frome falls in love with her. But the social conventions of the day doom their love and their hopes. The story forcefully conveys Wharton's abhorrence of society's unbending standards of loyalty. Written while Wharton lived in France but before her divorce (1913), Ethan Frome became one of the best known and most popular of her works. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature.