Is it possible to outrun your past? To begin anew? Those are the questions that plague Marion Hatley in 1931 when she flees a scandal in Pittsburgh and escapes to Cooper’s Ford, a small western Pennsylvania town.
Marion is a talented seamstress who works in a dress shop in Pittsburgh. An affair with a married man leads to the loss of her job. Marion is unmarried and still in mourning from the recent loss of her mother, a fellow seamstress. When she is summoned to take care of her dying aunt, an aunt she knew only from whispers and fragments of stories, she takes the opportunity to leave town. In addition to caring for her aunt, Marion takes on a teaching job. Soon she becomes enmeshed in the community and in the lives of some of the children in her classroom. Based on the visions and dreams of her late mother, she also creates and markets a comfortable corset, the first of its kind, which becomes a success among the locals. But just when Marion is settling in, she discovers that long-buried secrets are destined to come to light.
Marion Hatley is an engaging portrait of a modern woman ahead of her time. She’s talented, courageous, devoted to her students and aunt, and not afraid to speak up for herself and others. A subplot featuring the relationship between a townsperson, Elder Baines, who was injured in the war, and his friendship with Walter, the son of Marion’s friend, is less interesting. Although it provides some insight into Walter and his relationship with his abusive father, I didn’t feel that it added anything to the storyline and was a bit superfluous.
Strong female characters and authentic historical details transform Marion Hatley into a worthy read with a satisfying ending.