The Dream Seekers

Grace Mark, Author William Morrow & Company $22 (412p) ISBN 978-0-688-11223-3
This debut novel co-opts the corrupt, turbulent Chicago of the 1890s as its backdrop. Isabelle Woodruff, an upper-class matron, is trapped in a loveless marriage to a mean-spirited tyrant. In an attempt to redeem her unhappy life, she becomes a volunteer at Hull House. Meanwhile Hannah Chernik, the beautiful daughter of impoverished Russian immigrants, has found work as a seamstress. On her way up the ladder, however, she meets and is undone by a cruel philanderer. Penniless, ashamed to tell her family she is pregnant, she finds refuge in a high-class brothel. Josef Chernik, Hannah's idealistic brother, becomes involved in a union movement and, in the strike that follows, is falsely accused of murder. The stories of these ``dream seekers'' unfold in alternating chapters. Perhaps to add weight to her tale, Mark calls on real-life figures: Clarence Darrow, Jane Addams, Eugene Debs, Buffalo Bill Cody and President Grover Cleveland all play parts. But this romance never becomes more than a sentimental exercise in which the virtuous suffer while the wicked prosper. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
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