by Beth Castrodale
Publication Date: April 20, 2017
eBook & Paperback; 277 Pages
To escape a big-city scandal, a Depression-era lingerie seamstress flees to the countryside, where she hopes to live and work in peace. Instead, she finds herself unraveling uncomfortable secrets about herself and those closest to her.
In February of 1931, Marion Hatley steps off a train and into the small town of Cooper’s Ford, hoping she’s left her big-city problems behind. She plans to trade the bustling hubbub of a Pittsburgh lingerie shop for the orderly life of a village schoolteacher. More significantly, she believes she’ll be trading her reputation-tainting affair with a married man for the dutiful quiet of tending to her sick aunt. Underpinning her hopes for Cooper’s Ford is Marion’s dream of bringing the daily, private trials of all corset-wearing women—especially working women—to an end, and a beautiful one at that.
Instead, she confronts new challenges: a mysteriously troubled student; frustrations in attempts to create a truly comfortable corset; and, most daunting, her ailing aunt. Once a virtual stranger to Marion, her aunt holds the key to old secrets whose revelation could change the way Marion sees her family and herself.
As her problems from Pittsburgh threaten to resurface in Cooper’s Ford, Marion finds herself racing against time to learn the truth behind these secrets and to get to the bottom of her student’s troubles. Meanwhile, Marion forms a bond with a local war veteran. But her past, and his, may be too much to sustain a second chance at happiness.
“Like Marion Hatley’s own creations, Beth Castrodale’s début novel is sewn, sentence by elegant sentence, with exquisite care and beauty.” — David Rowell, author of The Train of Small Mercies
“A reflective, compassionate, and gracefully written tale.” – Kirkus
“A beautiful story, beautifully told.” – Lee Jacobus, author of Hawaiian Tales, Crown Island, and The Romantic Soul of Emma Now
My Review: I love a book with a strong female lead. It allows me to jump into the shoes of the main character, to see the world from her perspective. Marion Hatley decides to head to Cooper’s Ford, a small country town, leaving her big city life (with it’s problems and scandals) behind. She must start anew and readjust to her new world, all while trying to find her footing, set herself up financially and face new challenges head-on.
One of the trials that Marion faces, is designing a new and comfortable corset. I found this aspect of the book utterly fascinating, as the travails of corset-wearing heretofore hasn’t been on my study radar. (Also, my Google history is now filled with searches like “Corsets of the 30’s,” and “Uncomfortable corsets,” and “Why women stopped wearing corsets.” #nerdproblems) I found myself absolutely loving everything about Marion, her strength and her determination, as well as the part of her that perpetually remained a misfit. I was also equally drawn to the other characters in the book, which is a rare treat! I found myself wanting to know more about Elder, Ina and Walter, wondering where their story might lead, hoping for a happy ending for each of them.
Bottom Line: Marion Hatley is a book that keeps you thinking, long after you’ve finished the last page. Beautiful characters, wonderful writing.
Beth Castrodale started out as a newspaper reporter and editor, then transitioned to book publishing, serving for many years as an editor for an academic press. She has completed three novels: Marion Hatley, a finalist for a 2014 Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press (to be published in April 2017 by Garland Press); Gold River; and In This Ground, an excerpt of which was a shortlist finalist for a 2014 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Beth recommends literary fiction on her website SmallPressPicks.com, and she has published stories in Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, Marathon Literary Review, and Mulberry Fork Review. She lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
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