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A novelette which is sure to be compared with Willa Cather's A Lost Lady - not unjustifiably, though (for this reader) it is definitely a minor work. The story spans two wars, -- the Spanish-American War and the First World War- in a small town in northern Penneylvania. The feel of the town is there, from the flag waving as heroes come and go, to the holier-than-thou detachment when one of their number steps out of the role cast for her, only to be branded until -- by a dramatic gesture- she cancels out the past. There is an odd aura of detachment as the unfolding of the theme is given through a youth who had grown from boyhood to manhood, again and again serving as go-between for his adored older Cousin Lucy. It was he who took her the telegram announcing the death of Tom, to whom she was engaged (chiefly because Will, whom she really loved, was too procrastinating). But because Tom had died a hero in the Philippines -- and will comes home safe, Cousin Lucy elects the role of gentle martyr, withdrawn from life to worship at the shrine of the dead. In this role she grows old, becoming a ""character"" in the community, and Will -- after the fiasco of almost getting her to the altar as a bride -- becomes a crusty old bachelor. Jolted out of her illusions, Lucy undergoes a transformation -- and attempts to win Will back. But only a fire- and the flaunting of her ignominy before the community -- persuades Will to take the chance again. But it is too late- Lucy has married an old man, a broken man -- and at the end, the veil of her pretense is torn away- the truth known. A new type of story for Conrad Richter, but done with a sure touch, fine technique.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1947
Publisher: Knopf