A supporting character in Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer gets her own novel.
Reviewing her past at 70, Becky Thatcher means to set the record straight. She wasn’t the prissy crybaby portrayed in her old schoolmate Sam Clemens’s bestselling book. She wasn’t just rascally Tom Sawyer’s schoolyard crush—she was his lover and the mother of his child. She was a tomboy who snuck out at night to tail Tom and Huck Finn on their mischief missions around Hannibal, Mo. And Clemens got it wrong about that graveyard murder. Muff Potter, not Injun Joe, was the culprit, and Becky’s first rupture with Tom happened because he inculpated Joe. Grown-up Becky marries Tom’s cousin Sid. Tom pilots riverboats and Huck skulks around Hannibal, a human cipher. When Sid enlists to fight, and Missouri is ravaged by Civil War shortages and marauding gangs, Becky helps her father, Judge Thatcher, escape arrest for treason. Her infant son Tyler has died, leaving only Gage, her son conceived in a tryst with Tom—a secret she withholds from Sid. Dressing as a soldier, Becky follows the troops and rescues Sid. On their return to Hannibal they witness a steamboat explosion in which Tom is lost. The couple head west to join the Nevada gold rush. Sid discovers a rich silver vein, but is killed by vigilantes. Now a wealthy widow, Becky journeys with Gage and her new daughter by Sid to San Francisco. Encouraged by Sam, she becomes a newspaperwoman. But Becky still yearns for Tom and regrets deceiving Sid. A telegraph from Hannibal reveals that Tom is alive, but desperately ill in Panama, where he and Huck had gone for their latest adventure. Becky must follow them one last time. Feisty Becky and charismatic Tom are still, in Hart’s retelling, unable to transcend their Twain-fostered public images. Huck’s best friends ultimately appear to be as unknowable as he is.
As characterized here, Becky doesn’t earn the equal time she clamors for.