Mollyfar

Written by Bonnie Hobbs
Review by Valerie Adolph

Her name was Molly. “Just Molly. The other name is Pa’s and I don’t want it.”

She lies on a bed in a brothel talking to young Wade Devlin, son of a cattle rancher in 1886 Texas. Wade has been sent there by his father to get his first experience of sex. It would have been Molly’s first experience of sex, too, except that Wade’s father bursts in saying Wade was taking too long.

Before Molly can lose her virtue, the brothel is bought by Heeshi, a kindly older madam who has enough money to retire from an ordinary brothel and set up one where the girls are kindly treated. Heeshi, herself sexually ambiguous, mothers Molly like the daughter she never had. It is from Heeshi’s faro table that Molly adds ‘far’ to her name.

The novel follows the tempestuous love affair between Mollyfar and Wade, with the addition of a pseudo-preacher seeking to wreak revenge on Heeshi.

The author reveals the raw realities of life – especially a woman’s life – in the early days of rural Texas. There is nothing comfortable about the events or the characters described. The dialogue, and there is a lot of it, tends to avoid many terms that would have been common in brothels back then. And the premise – that two attractive young people have sex only with each other for years while one works in a brothel and the other is married for part of the time – tests one’s credulity.

Still, the author succeeds in giving the reader a clear picture of life in the early days of Texas ranch country and its people. We gain an understanding of a vanished way of life. Her research has been extensive, and her enthusiasm for the time and place is clearly demonstrated.