A diverse range of vivid characters brings human faces to a historical protest march.

STORIES FROM SUFFRAGETTE CITY

A landmark 1915 protest for women’s suffrage is the setting for the dozen short stories in this rousing anthology.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote. These stories by writers known for historical fiction focus on an event five years before, a march in New York City by 25,000 supporters of suffrage, “a three-mile-long argument for women’s rights.” Several of them bring to life real people; among the strongest is Jamie Ford’s “Boundless, We Ride.” Its protagonist is Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, a Chinese-born suffragist who would become the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from Columbia. Ford makes her a fiercely determined figure with a surprising, and touching, inspiration. The only story not set in New York is “American Womanhood” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez; its first-person narrator is Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the Black suffragist and early civil rights leader. At home in Chicago, she recalls a humiliating event at a 1913 march, an example of racism that seems all too current a century later. Some historical characters recur, like the millionaire Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. She’s an imposing but remote presence in Katherine J. Chen’s “Siobhán,” which focuses on one of her housemaids; in Fiona Davis’ “The Last Mile,” Alva is a conflicted and more human main character. Other stories are built around fictional characters, many of them immigrants. In Christina Baker Kline’s “The Runaway,” Kira, a homeless 12-year-old from Ireland, sees the march as a gateway to her future and freedom. But for Ani, the Armenian refugee in Chris Bohjalian’s “Just Politics,” the protest triggers her worst memories of the political massacre that took her entire family. One character, irrepressible 7-year-old Grace, appears in “A First Step” and then pops up in many other stories, wearing a “Miss Suffragette City” sash and recording the scene with a Brownie camera.

A diverse range of vivid characters brings human faces to a historical protest march.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-24133-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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