A Violet Season
The Hudson Valley violet growing business is thriving in 1898, but not everyone is reaping rewards. The two older Fletcher brothers and their families live in comfort while prodigal brother Frank, his wife and children are made to suffer and struggle as tenant farmers. The beauty of the flowers stands in sharp contrast to the grit it takes to produce and market them.
Obsessed with paying his debt to his siblings, Frank’s large family suffers, none more so than its women – wife Ida has taken on wet-nursing duties for mysterious babies her husband brings home, and daughter Alice is abruptly left employed in New York City after a family outing. Ida knows with a mother’s heart that something is dreadfully wrong, and Alice’s beau confirms her fears as they travel together to investigate. Meanwhile, the brothers continue to humiliate the menfolk with more hardships in store for all.
Perhaps this novel could have started at a better juncture, but once Ida’s character and situation take hold, A Violet Season becomes fiercely compelling, from its flawed but sympathetic central character and her struggles and limited choices. Details bring the rural Hudson Valley setting alive, from the trials of laundry day, to keeping greenhouses warm through the winter, to the agonies of mastitis. The mysteries of the babies and of Alice’s disappearance are well played and suspenseful, as is the novel’s depiction of the power of love and forgiveness.