Twenty-one miles outside the small Minnesota town of Minerva in the 1920s, Cora Egan gives birth to a baby daughter. In the same small town, a young Penny Niebeck is slapped across the face by her mother, Barbara, a woman who does just what she needs to survive as a single mother.
Three unconventional women in a conventional setting - what could make for a more interesting tale? Not much. Cora’s sexuality is questioned because she wears men’s clothing and works her own fields with the help of Mexican immigrants. Penny’s shame at her mother’s predicament leads to the fight that separates them and leads her to answer an ad for a worker on Cora’s farm.
Penny’s mother has issues of her own, and when she begins what she believes to be an innocuous affair with her married employer, the affair deepens and causes her relationship with her daughter and the employer’s children to implode with awful consequences.
Each woman must, in her fashion, learn to exist in an environment that challenges her very way of being. This is an engrossing book, and I read it in one day at one sitting. The characters are finely and fully crafted, with distinct personalities and believable problems. The suspense is delicious toward the end of the book. The ending is rather predictable, at least one of the storyline endings is, but the other was a complete surprise. What more could a reader ask for?