Emmaline Nelson and her sister Birdie grow up in the hard, cold rural Lutheran world of strict parents, strict milking times, and strict morals. Marriage is preordained, the groom practically predestined. Though it’s 1958, southern Minnesota did not see changing roles for women on the horizon. Caught in a time bubble between a world war and the ferment of the 1960’s, Emmy doesn’t see that she has any say in her life, any choices at all. Only when Emmy’s fiancé shows his true colors and forces himself on her does she find the courage to act—falling instead for a forbidden Catholic boy, a boy whose family seems warm and encouraging after the sere Nelson farm life. Not only moving to town and breaking free from her engagement but getting a job on the local newspaper begins to open Emmy’s eyes. She discovers that the KKK is not only active in the Midwest but that her family is involved, and her sense of the firm rules she grew up under—and their effect—changes completely.
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Kathryn - 4.5 Star
I appreciated this only once I got into the story though and admit that I pushed myself to keep reading (again, due to the fabulous reader reviews) and am so very glad I did. I’m no expert on the period or the area so any historical liberties or misplaced facts slipped right past me. I was entirely caught up in the life of Emmy and the awakening of her own desires. It was indeed a peculiar time to be coming of age in small-town America - a time when religion still dominated the landscape and ones parents planned out one’s life- it was valuable to try to place myself in Emmy’s shoes. Her refusal to accept the man she’s been planned for was a relief but I liked that Amy Scheibe didn’t rush this part- it was done methodically with as much back and forth as one would expect. I would have hated for her to suddenly up and change her life without a second thought- it would have never given credibility to the character of Emmy.
The remainder of the novel took a number of twists and turns as Emmy uncovered not only her own self but her family’s secrets and history. I found the story plausible (though perhaps a touch convoluted) and it was made more realistic by the family members who come into Emmy’s life. I ached for her aunt Josephine as well as her father and even her mother and sister were characters I was fond of in the end. I also was impressed with the subtle storyline surrounding Bobby- it was well executed without becoming another “big” thing.
A great book- if you find yourself less than attached to Emmy at the start please keep reading!
Thank you to St Martin's Press for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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