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FOUR OF A KIND by Vanessa Russell


A women's historical fiction

by Vanessa Russell

Pub Date: July 20th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1497348936
Publisher: CreateSpace

Russell’s debut historical novel explores the women’s rights movement through the eyes of four successive generations.

In December 1963, great-grandmother Ruby Wright gathers together her daughter, Bess Wright-Pickering; granddaughter, Katy Pickering; and great-granddaughter, Jesi Pickering. She gives them each the task of writing about their “year of awakening,” or, as Bess explains it, “a year of 4 seasons, where the spring seed of an event is born, grows, matures, and becomes winter wisdom as a life-changing realization.” Ruby, who came of age near the turn of the 20th century, discusses her stifling experiences as a Victorian-era housewife and her participation in the nascent women’s suffrage movement. She often brought her bright, obedient daughter, Bess, to the demonstrations, and the girl readily took up her mother’s mantle, later crusading for women’s rights and the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Her daughter, Katy, reveals a time in the 1940s when she traveled to Georgia, the site of her father’s plantation. There, she attempted to find out more about her father, who died before she was born. In the process, she uncovered shocking secrets, and around the same time, she became pregnant with Jesi, who was born with leg deformities and still requires the use of a brace. At first reluctant to write, Jesi soon divulges her experiences with a black boyfriend during the 1960s’ civil rights movement. In this ambitious novel, Russell vividly portrays the sexism and sense of powerlessness that all four women experienced. Each woman writes five chapters, and the novel alternates between them, sometimes abruptly. The author devotes most of the novel to the two eldest women, but Katy’s and Jesi’s stories are no less complex, and seem shortchanged by the narrative. It sometimes isn’t clear whether a character is writing, remembering past events or reading from journals or letters. Readers may feel that it takes considerable time to get to know each character, but once the women become familiar, the story reads much more smoothly. Despite a few grammatical errors and a somewhat protracted length, the novel manages to enliven and enhance a momentous period in history.

An edifying historical saga for readers interested in the evolution of women’s rights.