Vera Keller, the daughter of German immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman. But Angelo Bellavia has also inadvertently opened up Vera's life to unexpected possibilities. Angelo's new wife, Pearl, the wealthy daughter of a clothing manufacturer, has defied her family's expectations by devoting herself to the suffrage movement. In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend...and a stirring new cause of her own. But when Pearl's selfless work pulls her farther from Angelo and their son, the life Vera craved is suddenly within her reach - if her conscience will allow her to take it.
Her choice will define not only her future but also that of her daughter, Alice.
Vera and Alice - a generation and a world apart - are bound by the same passionate drive to fulfill their dreams. As first mother and then daughter come of age in a city that is changing as rapidly as its skyline, they'll each discover that love is the only constant.
The book starts briefly in 1963, goes back to 1900-1917, and then, 200 pages in, jumps to 1942-1943. We learn about the suffragette movement and a little bit about WWI and WWII. But it's not really an historical fiction. It's just a good piece of literary fiction. I am a fan, though, of the back and forth in time, and Camille does it beautifully here. In fact, on page 207 of 368, she moves 25 years forward, where the focus is on the daughter of the main characters in the prior section. And let me just say this: I was absolutely caught up immediately with the new protagonist. There was no gradual interest on my part. It was BOOM, I was there.
I had my share of chills and tears. But this one wasn't a bawler for me. And that's okay. I was totally engrossed in the story and the characters all the way through. I had a shocker on page 327 that I never saw coming (I know, this is no surprise to any of you). And although this is a bit of a tell, Camille brings up a very important question: Which love is preferable - one based on passion? Or one based on comfort and ease? One is climbing the equivalent of Mt. Everest. And the other is watching climbers on Mt. Everest sitting in matching lounge chairs in the TV room. I don't know the answer. But it's interesting to consider, don't you think?
Stay tuned for #3. But if you have liked my recommendations with Harmel and Hepworth, among others, then do yourselves a favor. Pick up either The Way of Beauty or Before the Rain Falls (or both). You will be happy you did.