A debut about a young Indian woman’s tangled relations with a wealthy white family.
Rachel Winnapee learned to fend for herself at an early age. Abandoned by her parents, she was raised first by her grandmother, then by the nuns who took her into their orphanage after her grandmother died. At 16, she was hired (“as a charity”) by the wealthy St. Louis Catholic Lydia March to work as a housemaid in the family’s Michigan summer home. The Marches were not a particularly happy bunch that summer: Their elder son Lipscott had recently died in WWII, and their other boy Woody had just returned from his own service in the Pacific minus a leg. Rachel is soon pressed into service as a kind of unofficial therapist for Woody, who is too traumatized by his brother’s death to care much about putting his own life back into order. Eventually Woody and she fall in love, and Rachel becomes pregnant with Woody’s child. The charitable Mrs. March finds a couple of elderly spinsters to take Rachel in until the baby is born—but Rachel refuses to give the boy up for adoption. She raises him Ben on her own and tries to put Woody (who never answered her letters) out of her mind. When she and Woody meet again, 11 years later, Woody (now married with a son of his own) shocks Rachel by telling her that he knew nothing of Ben and had been told that Rachel ran away. Woody makes arrangements (just in time, as it turns out) to recognize Ben as his legal heir. But can the will hold up in court? Lydia March is not a woman to mess around with—though she may have met her match in Rachel.
More in the tradition of Dynasty than The Forsythe Saga—but readable and fresh all the same.