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21 Nov
2018
Posted in: Book Reviews
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Book Review: “Reliance, Illinois” by Mary Volmer

Reliance Illinois, by Mary Volmer

Reviewed by Bev Scott

I purchased this book at a reading by the author, Mary Volmer.

A fascinating story, set in 1874 on the Mississippi River. The protagonist is a teenage girl of thirteen, Madelyn Branch who pretends to be the younger sister of her beautiful mother, Rebecca, when they arrive in Reliance for her mother’s marriage to a never-met “business man” found in the “Matrimonial Times.” Mr. Dryfus is unhappily surprised because he did not expect his new wife to come with a spirited teenager. Maddy has some unique challenges to confront as well as the usual teenage longing to be pretty and loved. Unwanted in her mother’s new relationship, Maddy takes advantage of an opportunity in the household of the eccentric, wealthy Miss Rose becoming both servant and student. As she searches for her own path, she gets involved in social justice issues, radical early “feminist” schemes and faces the realities of romantic love.

The character of Maddy is finely developed. Both she and the secondary characters are drawn with complexity. As the plot unfolds the author reveals yet another secret, keeping the reader fully engaged until the surprising end of the story. With beautiful writing, vivid description and complexity of character and plot, I highly recommend this book.

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