The Real Minerva

Written by Mary Sharratt
Review by Jetta Carol Culpepper

Minerva, Minnesota, in 1923 appears to be a growing modern town. In small-town fashion, shadows are actively cast on family secrets. Three women in this evocative story struggle with reinventing their lives. Readers meet Barbara Niebeck, a single mother at age fifteen, raising her daughter Penny while employed as a housekeeper. When Penny reaches the rebellious teens, she answers an ad for a hired girl. She takes a job working for a Chicago woman, Cora Egan, who in moving to Minerva has escaped an abusive husband. Cora is busily tending crops on her grandfather’s farm while creating a life for herself and daughter Penelope.

Readers are drawn into a very rich plot through well-placed descriptions of daily life. The heartaches and backaches of these women, who continuously struggle with social judgments, become riveting. Their secret pasts are pushed aside. Mysteries from then and now entice readers, as each woman finds strength to create a life with good qualities. This well-written narrative shows women rising above adversity in a manner generally suppressed by societal norms. The author opens unpredictable doors for women, who are positively presented as pillars of strength. Finishing this compelling story, which concludes in Mexico in 1936, leaves the reader reflecting upon an amazing window into fictitious lives. The author’s storytelling skills are filled with imagination. I highly recommended this novel.