Kitty Coakley is a beautiful young daughter of an Irish-Catholic working class family. As the youngest and last daughter at home, she helps her mother with cooking, washing and cleaning up for her father and five older brothers in their cottage on Chicago’s west side. Her family expects her to marry a nice man from the parish, settle near her parents, and have lots of babies, a life like her mother’s, her older sister’s and all the other women in the parish. But it is 1900, Chicago is a booming city of opportunity and 17-year-old Kitty has ambitions. She studies voice until her teacher tells Kitty that she will never be good enough for an operatic career. Kitty decides to enter a new field and studies to be a kindergarten teacher. Kitty also has choices in husbands as well as careers. There is Brian from the parish, her parents’ choice, whom Kitty has known since childhood, and upper-class Protestant Henry, a young architect, who is not favored by her parents, but offers Kitty the life to which she aspires.
Joan Naper has written a charming and engrossing coming of age story. The heroine is well-grounded in who she is, but knows she can be more. She wants a life of self-determination but is conflicted by family loyalty, religion, and fears the price she will have to pay for this freedom. Ms. Naper develops her heroine and the plot with intelligence and sensitivity.