An orphaned 1980s teenager travels through time to the Jazz Age to discover the mystery of her identity in this sweetly confected historical fantasia.
Found as a newborn in a Denver dumpster in 1966, Jett Oxford is a scruffy 16-year-old street kid when she finally finds a haven at the Watson’s Candies store, whose 70-something proprietors, Henry and Jay, take her in, teach her the pastry trade, and give her the loving family life she’s never known. Then a kitchen explosion hurls her back to the year 1927, which is all Model Ts and stiff foundation garments. She feigns amnesia and is deposited at the local orphanage, but she’s soon taken up by the now young and handsome Henry and his blithe flapper fiancee, Josephine Doyle (who might later be called Jay, Jett surmises), the daughter of a rich family. The Roaring ’20s has its pros, such as glamorous retro fashions and swell parties, and its cons, such as anti-Irish bigotry and a tragic lack of antibiotics. Despite having to learn contemporary slang (“That would just be the ant’s ear!”) and scandalizing everyone with her own unladylike outbursts—“THAT BITCH!”—Jett soon fits right in. Alas, her knowledge of things to come causes dilemmas: as a teenage girl, she has trouble persuading the grown-ups that the Great Depression is about to happen and that they need to sell their stock and withdraw their money before the banks collapse; more poignantly, she has to suppress her growing feelings for Henry, since she believes his marriage to Josephine is the key to her own future. Poague’s time-travel conceit makes no more sense than is strictly necessary to serve as a hook for a winsome melodrama. The story unfolds in blossoming friendships, makeovers, light romantic intrigues, and, finally, deeper familial joys and heartache. The author’s yen for intrusive economics lessons—“The system of state arbitration will drive labor costs up, rendering German goods uncompetitive on world markets” is typical dinner-table repartee—sometimes slows things down. Still, Poague’s vibrant characters and piquant period details make for an entertaining voyage into the past.
An engaging, bittersweet saga about finding a place to belong.