Sold on a Monday

Written by Kristina McMorris
Review by Kristen McDermott

The scope of this intimate story is quite modest. Two young writers who want to make their careers as journalists in Philadelphia, 1931, struggle to balance success and their principles in the hard-driving world of newspapers, rum-running gangs, and the Depression-era economic desperation that leads them both to the heartbreaking human-interest story that gives the novel its title. The moral and social implications, however, are impressive.

Ambitious Ellis Reed, a cub reporter, snaps a photo of two rural boys standing beside a hand-lettered sign reading “2 children for Sale.” As he attempts to sell the story to his editor, he is forced to re-stage the scene for a new photo with two different children, setting in motion a series of unintended consequences that bring him success, but spell disaster for the children. His attempts to put things right are aided by a quiet, determined secretary at the paper, Lillian Palmer, who is moved by the children’s plight but dismayed by the ways in which Ellis compromises his values in his quest for success.

To say more about the complications that ensue would spoil the delicate clockwork of this finely told, emotionally satisfying gem of a novel. McMorris handles the dual points of view confidently, and each decision made by the main characters is completely believable even as the secrets they share and uncover become more and more shocking. This is a fast, focused read, but grounded in a keen sense of the rhythms and style of the speakeasy era. Although this is not a religious novel, its uplifting focus on values and choices would make it an ideal book club read for church as well as secular groups.