Unmentionables is the first published novel by author Laurie Lowenstein. The publisher has placed it in the historical fiction category. I’m not so sure about that; I think it’s more “fiction” than”historical”. But that’s a minor point.
As the novel opens, we meet Marian Elliot Adams, a speaker on the “Chautauqua” circuit, who is traveling the midwest to promote sensible dress for women; specifically she is a proponent of women discarding heavy, constricting, undergarments in order to fully participate in a more robust, healthful life. In the small town of Emporia (Illinois? The first clue is that one of the characters is the President of the Western Illinois Savings and Loan, but it was a bit confusing at first to figure out where the action was taking place), Mrs. Elliot Adams’ message is not well received by all. The year is 1917, but Emporia seems stuck in the nineteenth century.
Leaving the stage after her speech, Marian falls and hurts her ankle. So she is forced to linger in Emporia. While there, she interacts with numerous townspeople and, just as they are affected by her and her modern ways, Marian is affected by them.
Marian becomes friendly with Deuce Garland, the publisher of Emporia’s newspaper. She also meets Deuce’s step-daughter Helen, who is working at the newspaper following her high school graduation. Marian encourages Helen to follow her dream of moving to Chicago. Marian also encourages Deuce to print controversial stories and editorials that displease his wealthy father-in-law, who is the real owner of the newspaper.
When Marian completes her summer speaking circuit, she volunteers for a Red Cross relief effort in rural France. She and Deuce continue to develop their relationship via mail. Meanwhile, Helen is struggling to find her place in Chicago.
Generally, I enjoyed this novel. However, the action was a bit disjointed. While it seemed necessary for Marian and Deuce’s relationship that they be separated, the choice of Marian going off to France was odd. It seemed as if there were three main centers of action-Chicago, Emporia, and France. It was difficult to tell when different events were occurring; then all of a sudden it seemed an entire year had passed. But it was a quick and engaging read nonetheless. Once again, many thanks to LibraryThing and its Early Reviewer program for sending this book to me.
Softcover edition-to be published-Kaylie Jones/Akashic Books-January 2014