A Violet Season

Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Simon & Schuster, $15 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-4516-5506-3
In her debut novel, Czepiel sensitively traces a struggling rural family at the turn of the 20th century. The Fletchers own a large Hudson Valley violet farm and are very wealthy, except for youngest brother Frank and his wife, Ida, who have been excluded from the good fortune after Frank stole money from his two older brothers several years before the story opens. As punishment, the brothers have made him a hired hand instead of a partner in the profitable family enterprise. Frank becomes obsessed with making money to pay his brothers back and takes daughter Alice to New York City to work as a housekeeper in a brothel with the hope that she will “cross over” and earn the money he needs to pay his debts. He tells his wife that Alice is working in a factory, and while Ida is upset that he took Alice away without consulting her, she has no knowledge of the girl’s real situation. By the time Ida finally learns where Alice is, she has been raped and fallen into a serious depression, thinking she’s ruined. Although Ida plans to escape from her brutish husband and goes to the city to rescue Alice, the mother-daughter relationship is by then seriously damaged. Czepiel paints an intriguing portrait of agricultural life in upstate New York and catches the flavor of the time in accomplished prose. Her characters are in difficult situations and while they fall a little flat (Frank is especially a caricature), readers will sympathize with the plight of mother and daughter. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 07/10/2012
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Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4516-5508-7
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