Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker

"It’s 1864 in downtrodden Lowell, Massachusetts. The Civil War has taken its toll on the town—leaving the economy in ruin and its women in dire straits. That is, until Asa Mercer arrives on a peculiar, but providential, errand: he seeks high-minded women who can exert an elevating influence in Seattle, where there are ten men for every woman. Mail-order brides, yes, but of a certain caliber.

Schoolmarmish Josephine, tough-as-nails Dovey, and pious perfectionist Sophronia see their chance to exchange their bleak prospects for new lives. But the very troubles that sent them running from Lowell follow them to the muddy streets of Seattle, and the friendships forged on the cross-country trek are tested at every turn.

Just when the journey seems to lead only to ruin, an encounter with a famous suffragist could be their salvation. But to survive both an untamed new landscape and their pasts, they’ll need all their strength—and one another."

A group of women seeking a better life make the arduous trip from Lowell to Seattle. Among them are Dovey, only 16 years old and running away from her father's intention to force her into marriage. Sophronia, who feels strongly that a woman's only hope in life is to marry and raise children, though she has never been able to find a man who can meet her strict and stringent expectations, and  Josephine, who has no intention of marrying and has a secret reason for wanting to run off to Seattle. The women face a long journey on carts, a train and ships, they deal with  sea sickness and illness, and at last arrive to an unwelcoming committee who considers them to be women of low moral character. As they set out to prove themselves they each take very different paths but manage to stay friends.
I love historical fiction and this was an engaging read, and a fantastic glimpse of what life was like in the earliest days of women's suffrage, when it was unsafe and unheard of for a woman to be out alone after dark and the excitement of going to hear Susan B Anthony speak.

I received an advance copy for review

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