A young woman from a strict, religious family and trapped in an equally oppressive marriage struggles to break free in the midst of the Great Depression.
The year is 1932 and Pearl Tild is on her way from Tucson to Los Angeles. Traveling by train with her companion, Gordon McAndless, something feels wrong. Upon arriving in LA, the cause of Pearl’s unease is revealed: a dismembered corpse is found packed into her steamer trunk. From here, Degnore returns to the beginning to trace the story of Pearl, a unique woman who has an unusual perspective of the world, and the events that led to the discovery of her macabre cargo. Pearl is a wonderfully complex character weighed down by the emotional baggage of growing up in her dysfunctional, rigidly religious family. Her emotional state is revealed as much by the peculiar cadence of her speech and the idiosyncrasies of her behavior as by the historical details Degnore provides in small bits and pieces. This fascinating study of human behavior wraps around a cleverly written murder mystery where the identity of both victim and murderer are held in secret until the last possible moment. Degnore subtly peels back narrative layers to bring Pearl’s deepest fears and desires to the surface. At times this careful dissection takes a little too long, which creates a few slow spots; but the large-scale effect is too compelling to resist. Through Pearl’s eyes, her husband, friends and family are also revealed to be full of flaws and human frailty. But, as Degnore gently yet adamantly insists, don’t be too quick to judge—chances are, what you thought was certain is uncertain.
A thoughtful, engrossing story of a young woman desperately fighting to find her own voice even as family, friends and society try to keep her silent.