Stevens (Household Words, 2014, etc.) shines light on a young woman’s struggles to break from societal expectations.
Twenty-two-year-old Amy Morse is not going to follow in her father’s footsteps. A professor at “The Hill,” Dad passed away before fulfilling his life’s ambition of publishing an analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems. Amy has her heart set onart school in the Big Apple, after which she hopes to become an established painter. To do so, she must first break free of the suffocating choke hold her mother exerts and conventional expectations that push her toward the path of marriage and motherhood. Leaving the provincial life behind, not surprisingly, Amy finds that life in New York City can be deeply isolating. Charlie Campbell, a family acquaintance and eligible bachelor, just might be the dose of cheer that Amy needs.Unfortunately, love gets in the way, and Amy’s careful plans may be derailed. The vice president of the family business,Campbell Insurance, Charlie introduces Amy to his extended blue-blood family, including his mother, Emma Campbell,and stepbrother, Duncan, whose wild spirit and spontaneity stand out in sharp contrast to Charlie’s own. Life in New York City proves to be an education in more ways than one, and Amy must eventually decide whether to follow herheart or her mind. Set against the backdrop of the women’s rights movement, Amy’s ambivalence about her life feelsearned but sometimes overly anguished. Her internal struggles are eloquently described, yet the narrative could have used a focus on backdrop as well. Apart from a very occasional mention of a ’50s and’60s period setting, it’s difficult toplace the story in its historical context. Extended comparisons between Amy’s struggles and other women’s situations(such as Charlie’s secretary, for example) seem a little forced. Nevertheless, this is a fluidly written and engaging exploration of one young woman’s angst.
A soulful novel that falls just short of its own grand ambitions.