A sweet, quiet coming-of-age story set in a Prohibition-era lakeside resort.
Middle-class Garnet, 16, has been sent from St. Paul to spend the summer with a distant, wealthy relative to give her shellshocked World War I–veteran father space to heal. She misses him terribly; before the war they went birding together, and he protected her from her mother's attempts to make her a lady. She has sublimated her love of the outdoors into an uncanny talent to cut the silhouettes of birds, which decorate and inform each chapter. Once in Excelsior, she finds herself bored by ladylike pursuits and both seeks employment with the milliner and falls in love with Isabella, a beautiful girl who performs in the forbidden dance hall. Race relations, class differences and "the love that dare not speak its name" intertwine thoughtfully in this meticulous novel. The Jazz Age resort-town setting and environs are beautifully evoked; the author's afterword attests to her research. Garnet’s narration reveals a girl on the cusp of modernity, one whose desire for something more and something else feels both alluring and terrifying. A subplot in which Garnet attempts to convince her employer not to use feathers in her hats is consistent but feels superfluous in this otherwise tight and purposeful, if slightly overdetermined, novel.
This slim tale is a positive breath of fresh air in a market bloated with opportunistic dystopian and paranormal romances. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)