Maddie Ingram settles in Seattle in 1899 after her husband abandons her in the Yukon. With Yukon gold, Maddie buys a boardinghouse on Seattle’s Denny Hill. The boarders become her new family: Clyde, her albino handyman; Loye, a feminist student; Chiridah, an aspiring actress; James, publisher of one of Seattle’s black newspapers; Ray, the struggling photographer; and Ada, the girl who helps with chores. But Maddie’s contentment is short-lived; city planners are determined to regrade Denny Hill, meaning she will almost certainly lose her property, her happy living situation, and her cherished stability.
This hefty novel is reminiscent of the tomes of the 19th century—filled with descriptive passages and forays into the lives of the various characters, telling, ultimately, the tale of Seattle’s emergence as a city during the first decade of the 20th century. The author’s research shows, but does not intrude. The characters are unique and believable, and I genuinely cared about the predicament they found themselves in. Peter Donahue has penned a memorable chronicle of life in the Pacific Northwest one hundred years ago.