A historical novel that draws on the real life of Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor, the second wife of a Colorado silver baron.
Raised in the mid-1800s as a Catholic, Lizzie McCourt commits the first of many indiscretions in her life by marrying a Protestant man, Harvey Doe. After a brief marriage, his erratic temperament and addiction to morphine, alcohol, and brothels leads Lizzie to file for divorce—a rare practice at the time, thought by many to be immoral, no matter the justification. This brings shame upon her family and forces her to leave the church. After finding a job at a Colorado silver mine, she promptly falls for Horace Tabor, a wealthy business owner who happens to be significantly older—and already married. She finds love and companionship with him, although the circumstances surrounding their union only leads to further scandal in their small, pious town. Baier Stein (Sympathetic People, 2013, etc.) artfully intertwines her story with some of the real-life Lizzie’s own journal writings, and the author pays tribute to her protagonist by emulating and maintaining the tone of these entries. In doing so, she authentically constructs a complex, compassionate character whose actions readers will support and celebrate. Lizzie’s choices, especially when she ends a doomed marriage, help to show her as a woman who was ahead of her time and worthy of admiration. The book is well-researched in every facet, from its antiquated yet very readable language to its geographical and historical accuracy. Although Baier Stein glosses over some of Lizzie’s inner turmoil, she still shows her to be deliberate in her actions, reflective, and unapologetic. However, although the majority of the narrative is well-paced and engaging, some resolutions seemed rushed.
An artistic, sympathetic imagining of the life of a 19th-century woman who made headlines for all the wrong reasons.