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 Spencer (Home Song, 1995, etc.) switches gears from Minnesota to Maine for a feminist historical set in 1916. When Roberta Jewett, recently divorced from her philandering husband, decides to move her three daughters--Rebecca, 16, Susan, 14, and Lydia, 10--from Boston to her former hometown of Camden, Maine, all kinds of sparks fly. Roberta never anticipated the extent to which she'd be shunned and gossiped about as a divorcÇe and working mother. Worse, she buys a home, a car--unheard of for a woman--and starts spending time with widower and single father (of Isobel, 14) Gabriel Farley, whom she's hired to fix up her broken-down house. Meanwhile, Roberta's sister Grace and their mother, Myra, secretly envy Roberta's confidence and independence but refuse to accept her seeming emancipation or help her in her transition back into Camden life. Worst of all, Grace's husband Elfred, a notorious womanizer, harasses and fondles Roberta both in public and private; his actions culminate in a violent rape that allows Roberta and Gabriel to admit their real feelings for each other but places Roberta's status in town at an all-time low: Elfred, after all, is a pillar of the community and a business leader and family man to boot. When another pillar of the community--Elizabeth DuMoss (who's spoken up on Roberta's behalf at town meetings, as have the dozens of children who've found fun and warmth at the Jewett home)--comes forward with a confession, Roberta is finally free to pursue true love and create the kind of family and career she's wanted all along. Roberta is appealingly independent and spirited, as are her daughters, but the historical inaccuracies and anachronisms--mainly the modern-day slang--are distracting in a book that, breaking no new ground, needs to be as perfectly tuned as it can.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1996
ISBN: 0-399-14120-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995


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