The Uncertain Season

Written by Ann Howard Creel
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

The Uncertain Season tackles themes of societal norms and expectations, of race and privilege, and of finding one’s own way in life.

In 1900, a devastating hurricane slammed into Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. The story opens three years later when Grace, a socialite who lives with her widowed mother, welcomes her cousin Etta into her home. Following a scandal, Etta’s mother had banished her, sending her to live with her wealthy aunt and cousin. Etta cunningly uses it to her advantage, trying to transform herself from a simply country girl to a member of society. Etta charms her aunt and all of Grace’s friends, never revealing her true background. But when Grace, in a rapidly regrettable moment of weakness, reveals the truth about her cousin, Grace’s mother punishes her by forcing her to volunteer in the alleys of Galveston. Grace teams up with a reverend to help the poor, mostly black community. Rather than viewing it as a punishment, the experience is transformative for Grace, causing her to question not only her engagement to her fiancé but her own role in society.

The story rotates perspectives between Grace, Etta, and a mute girl who had lost her family in the hurricane. The thread that connects the three is tenuous but pertinent to the trajectory of all of their lives. As Etta and the girl’s stories are told in the third person, the author effectively maintains that aura of mystery about those two characters, while Grace tells her own story, giving the reader a clear picture of who she really is, and where her heart lies.

The intricately woven plot, its unexpected direction, and the depth with which the characters are drawn make this a gratifying reading experience.