Girl Waits With Gun is about the Kopp Sisters of Paterson, New Jersey: Constance, Norma, and Fleurette. It's 1914, and they live on a farm outside of town. Constance is the eldest, and a very striking woman: she stands at 6 ft and can't be missed. Norma keeps pigeons as a hobby, and Fleurette at seventeen, is the youngest, prettiest, and most naive of the sisters. One day while driving into town with their buggy, they are hit by a car. Their buggy is damaged, and Constance wants it fixed. Unfortunately for the Kopp sisters, their buggy was hit by local silk factory owner Henry Kaufman. Loud, angry, and used to getting his way, he refuses to pay for damages. Henry and his gang of bullies then proceed to harass and intimidate the Kopp sisters.
Constance won't stand for it. She goes to the local sheriff, and begins her quest to bring Henry to justice. What starts out as a simple request for $50 to fix her buggy begins a year long test of bravery for Constance. Henry has no problem sending intimidating letters, threatening to kidnap Fleurette and sell her into white slavery (Fleurette thinks it's all very thrilling), and attempting to drive the sisters into silence.
The title comes from an actual newspaper article that was written about the Kopp sisters in 1914. Constance and her sisters became newspaper worthy when they decided to bring their plight to the public in hopes of stopping the harassment. Her growing friendship with Sheriff Heath is one of the best parts of this novel, as we see his respect for her grow and a true partnership begin to form as they not only work to bring Henry to justice, but find the child of a factory worker that disappeared during a strike at the silk factory. We learn that Henry Kaufman had his fingers in everything, and wasn't above using money and fists to keep people in line. This really is the ultimate "besting the bully" story.
Constance really did exist. She became the first female deputy sheriff in the United States. I'd love to read more about her. Author Amy Stewart has a website that has photos of Constance and some of the actual newspaper headlines of 1914 regarding the Kopp sisters. I got a real kick out of this story, and if you're a fan of historical fiction with feisty females and a dash of humor, this is the book for you. It would make a good book club selection with plenty to discuss.
Thank you to Houghton Mifflin for providing an advanced copy to read and review.
Rating: 7/10 for well-drawn characters, a story that shifts from seriousness to humor gracefully, and a glimpse into 1914 New Jersey.
Available September 1st in hardcover, e-book, and audio.