The Reason for Time
Monday, July 21, 1919. A dirigible falls from the sky onto Chicago’s Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, a piece of glass hitting a young Irish immigrant girl named Maeve Curragh in the neck, forever altering her view of the world. For ten days, we are privy to the unfolding incidents reported in the newspapers, which Maeve devours. The headlines sear her imagination as well as illuminate the goings-on around her. Soldiers return home from the battlefields of WWI Europe. Along with the Great Migration in full flower, racial tensions erupt between blacks and whites, and Maeve encounters violence and race riots.
The naïve Maeve falls for a streetcar conductor named Desmond Malloy, whom she calls “a sort of a magician… with the power he had to make me believe.” She longs to have him, torn by her own foolishness. Yet he affects her in another way: he makes her think she can do anything when she is with him.
Burns plunges the reader into the world of Chicago in 1919. Her flawless use of Irish brogue in Maeve’s first-person voice pulls us ever deeper into the events. Maeve’s perceptions of daily life are shown by her struggles to make sense of this new, feverish world, bounded by her Irish Catholic values and her position as a catalogue order clerk for the Chicago Magic Company. An amazing tale from a master of her craft.