Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Violet Season by Kathy Leonard Czepiel

If this cover doesn't make you pick up this book, I don't know what will.  But make sure you do, because it is a compelling story about  family dynamics, long burning resentment, and a mother and daughter who find themselves struggling to deal with betrayal and hard choices.

This novel takes place in the Hudson Valley in 1898 and centers around the violet industry.  Did you have any idea there were violet farms?  According to the author, this area in  "the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries" was known as "the Violet Capital of the World."  Before roses become popular, everyone wanted violets.  And violets play a huge part in this story.

Ida Fletcher is married to Frank, who is the youngest of three brothers who own a violet farm.  He's the best with the violets, but he is paid a minimum wage, and is not a partner in the farm.  Why?  Because Frank did something really foolish 23 years earlier, and is being punished by his brothers.  Until he can pay back the debt he owes the farm, he will not be a partner, and he and Ida and their children will have to live in a small home on the farm, while his brothers and their wives lives in much nicer homes and enjoy the money the violet farm produces.  This has created quite a bit of anger in Frank, and it's been brewing for years.  

Ida works at being a wet nurse for extra income, and also helps with the violets on top of keeping house and taking care of her kids.  Her oldest daughter, Alice, is being pressured by Frank to either get married or find a job to help the family.  One day, Frank takes Alice and a few of the younger kids to New York City to a horse show.  When he returns, Alice is not with him.  This begins the turning point in the story, and Ida's fight to find out where Alice is and to contact her.  Frank does nothing to help Ida, and we don't know the true depths of his deception until a bit later in the book.  When Ida finds out just where Alice is, and what Frank has done, she is forced to make a huge choice that will change the lives of her children, herself, and Frank.  

Ida is an interesting character--she's been married to Frank for 23 years, and slowly realizes he's not the man she thought he was--actually, he never was that man, and she just never realized it.  The women's movement is gathering steam, and Ida is becoming aware of the choices women should have in their lives.  She's also struggling to establish her relationship with Alice.  Can they find a common ground?  And Alice.  What a strong young woman.  She's put in a horrible situation, and does what she has to in order to survive.  Feeling betrayed by her parents, she changes into a tough, silent woman trying to sort out her life.  

I enjoyed this novel because it was so very different.  And I learned something new--violets farms?  Hmm.  Pretty darn interesting!  The story moves along at a good pace, and the women are all strong personalities.  The relationship between Frank and his brothers is one that will have you talking to your friends, as is Ida's marriage to Frank.  He is one interesting, very complex person.  

My rating:  3/5 for story setting and historical background, strong female characters, and Frank as a complex man with many secrets.

This book is available in paperback as as an e-book.  Thanks to Wendy at Simon & Schuster for providing me with a ARC of this book.

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