“Reliance, Illinois has it all—mystery, politics, war; love, death, and art . . . Every page is a pleasure” (Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves).
Illinois, 1874: With a birthmark covering half her face, thirteen-year-old Madelyn Branch is accustomed to cold and awkward greetings, and expects no less in the struggling town of Reliance. After all, her mother, Rebecca, was careful not to mention a daughter in the Matrimonial Times ad that brought them there.
When Rebecca weds, Madelyn poses as her mother’s younger sister and earns a grudging berth in her new house. But she is deeply wounded by her mother’s deceptions, and soon leaves to enter the service of Miss Rose Werner—prodigal daughter of the town’s founder, suffragette, and purveyor of black market birth control who sees in Madelyn a project and potential acolyte.
Madelyn, though, simply wants to feel beautiful and loved—and for that she will pin her hopes on William Stark, a young photographer and haunted Civil War veteran, in this historical novel that offers “a compelling portrait of a small Midwestern town and its residents during a period of great change” (Library Journal).