Scott (Everybody Loves Somebody, 2006, etc.) follows the life journey of an impoverished farm girl who repeatedly reinvents herself as she moves from town to town in northern Pennsylvania.
In 1947, 16-year-old Sally Werner, the daughter of German immigrants, is seduced and impregnated by a cousin. Leaving behind her newborn son, she runs away and begins a new life in a small community along the Tuskee River. But when someone from home recognizes her, Sally panics. She steals cash from her kindly employer and runs further north to a new town where she calls herself Sally Angel. She falls in love with a teenager named Mole who makes her genuinely happy until local rich boy Benny carelessly runs Mole’s car off the road. Unaware of his role in Mole’s death, grief-stricken Sally has a brief affair with Benny before she senses his mean streak. She runs again although she soon realizes she is carrying Benny’s baby. As Sally Mole she finds friendship, a good job and a satisfying life with her daughter Penelope in the town of Tuskee until Benny finds her and beats her up. Correctly fearing that he’ll attempt to take her daughter away, Sally runs with Penelope to Rondo where as Sally Bliss she raises Penelope while working as a legal secretary and carrying on a romance with her married boss. Sally’s story is narrated by her granddaughter, who is also tracing her own parental history. Penelope never knew why her fiancé Abe disappeared before the narrator’s birth, although early on the narrator drops the bombshell—Abe left when Sally told him he was her long-lost son. The romantic tragedy is that Sally was mistaken. The novel begins to peter out when Abe initiates contact with the narrator to give her the facts. Abe’s story is just not as interesting as Sally’s.
Scott’s luminous prose, references to world events and hints of magical realism never quite coalesce, but Sally is a character of mythic proportions.