A young couple encounters the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Colorado in retired U.S. Naval Academy professor Lamb’s (Reasonable Disagreement: Two U. S. Senators and the Choices They Make, 1998) debut novel.
Newlyweds Ruby and Owen Mattison are excited to start their life together in Platteville, Colo., where Owen has secured a teaching job at the local high school. However, Platteville, like many other communities of the era, is struggling to acclimate to social changes. The school board believes that adding mandatory Bible reading to the school day will help instill proper values in its students. Local Catholics object to the school’s use of the King James Version of the Bible, as well as the idea of simply reading Scripture without providing interpretation. The Bible-reading conflict is just one of several large issues facing the town; local women are also starting expect more freedom, and the KKK is beginning to infiltrate the community. Despite these unforeseen stresses, everything seems to be coming together well for the Mattisons, but soon after Ruby becomes pregnant with a much-hoped-for child, tragedy strikes. The novel will likely be eye-opening to many readers as it brings various aspects of 1920s society, and particularly the KKK, to life. Ruby, with her bobbed hair, musical gifts and firm belief in greater rights for women, isn’t a flapper, as Platteville residents characterize her, but a relatively moderate representation of imminent change. Owen, meanwhile, proves to be surprisingly patient and diplomatic as he deals with the unreasonable, deeply embedded prejudices of school board members. Based on the experiences of Lamb’s father and his first wife in Colorado, this well-researched novel is compelling, if heartbreaking, and historically seems to be beyond reproach. The setting may seem almost foreign to some readers, but its portrayal of the human condition is unmistakably universal.
A must-read for historical fiction fans that proves that there was far more to the 1920s than speakeasies and Model Ts.