From the back of the book:
“On a stifling August night in 1906, Karl Bauer fired two shots at his second wife. His sixteen-year-old daughter Minna struggled to wrest the revolver from his hands and the shots went wild. Her father, believing that he had murdered, turned the gun on himself. He died. This true event serves as the fulcrum for the story. At ninety, Minna reveals this shameful secret to her own daughter, laying bare the mysterious pent-up anger between them. The story traces the lives of three generations marked by the impact of this violent act.”
Mary Lou Chayes weaves an incredible tale of love, hate, abuse, murder and redemption that pulls the reader into the book from the very beginning. Knowing this murder has occurred, it becomes almost a mission to discover what events led up to it and what happened after.
Karl Bauer immigrated to America with his uncle and cousin. He falls deeply in love with a beautiful young woman and begins a wonderful life with her. They truly love each other and have plans for a long and happy future together. When their children are born, they become determined to offer them a successful life, as well.
After Susanna dies of pneumonia, Karl’s dreams are shattered. He retreats into himself … to the neglect of his son and daughter. When a distant cousin arrives on the scene to take care of them, he is so grateful that he decides to marry her. However, it turns out the woman has some severe mental issues and their life becomes a living hell.
Based on actual events, this fictional account is absolutely fascinating. It demonstrates how someone can end up in a deadly spiral and the consequences that can result.
Chayes could have written this as a memoir, but I think she made a wise decision to, instead, create a fictional tale based on fact. It made the story more readable and gave her the opportunity to bring in some creative dialogue between the characters.
Aside from the story itself, the book also brings to light some of the issues those arriving in America at the turn of the 20th century had to face, such as discrimination, poverty and employers who could easily take advantage of them.
This is a great piece of literature and I think you’ll enjoy it.