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by Grace Mark

Pub Date: June 16th, 1992
ISBN: 0-688-11223-4
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

A bustling, gossipy, Belva Plain-style chat-up taking place in 1893 Chicago and peopled with some real personalities of the time, who go beyond mere cameo-hood to influence the lives of two women- -one rich and miserable, the other poor and ambitious. Young Josef and Hannah Chernik, of a dirt-poor Russian Jewish immigrant family, visit the 1893 Columbian Exposition where, by lucky chance, Josef can show off his sharpshooting ability at Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show. Meanwhile, also at the World's Fair is lovely Isabelle Woodruff, who's a mere possession, ignored by cold banker husband Phillips, and having no fun at all. Eventually, both Isabelle and Hannah (who never meet) stir to independence—from Phillip (who has some S/M sex on with the maid) and from poverty, respectively. Isabelle begins to be involved with the good work of Hull House, founded by Jane Addams to enrich the lives of the poor, and responds to the courting of lawyer Clarence Darrow, who opens her eyes to the injustices foisted upon working people. At the same time, Hannah sews for slave wages at Marshall Field's, is wooed by a dashing sales manager, becomes pregnant, and then is discarded. Exiled from family, she lands at the brothel of tough-with-heart-of-gold Carrie Watson, and toils in that particular vineyard; later, however, she'll convince Carrie that she has more lasting talent in real-estate investment. (The baby is permanently farmed out.) By now, Josef has moved his parents to the company town of the Pullman Palace Car Company, where there are myriad reasons for the famous strike that follows. Josef is unfairly accused of murder but is defended by Darrow. Throughout, there are savage murders of young women by the Indian Running Wolf, whose own family was just as savagely murdered at Wounded Knee. In a farewell, Cody offers Running Wolf a way home. A good, juicy first novel, rich with gusty scandals, strikes, and show-stoppers.