June is set in the rural community of Ashton, Illinois, during 1940. The novel depicts life in a farming community as well as the underlying tensions prompted by the Presidential campaign between Republican Wendell Wilkie and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, the strength of the book is in the development of the title character June Ventler, who appears to be the typical farmer’s wife, doing endless chores and raising chickens for egg money, but is set apart from her community. June, at age 38, has no children and is defined by her childless state; she is also different because of her enthusiasm and developing talent in the design of homes, which she keeps secret for fear of ridicule.

June’s life changes when Mac, the newly hired hand, arrives. Easygoing and talkative, unlike June’s taciturn husband Ed, Mac serves as a catalyst for June to realize her dreams and change her life. Of contrasting interest in the novel are the details of women’s daily life on a farm and the background material on the life and principles of design of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. June discovers that Wright’s ideas articulate her own concept of what a home should be: an integration of the man-made world into the natural world. A trip away from home provides June with insight into people she thought she knew, and the development of a stronger sense of self contributes to her awakening.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award






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