reviewed by Annette Bukowiec
Goodreads | bestinhistoricalfiction
1907. Sylvie Pelletier is almost seventeen when her family moves from Vermont to Moonstone in Colorado. Her father works at the Quarrytown where they mine marble.
Sylvie is ambitious and excels at writing essays in school, which leads her to getting a job at the local newspaper, led by Miss Redmond. Being a woman, Miss Redmond wasn’t welcomed as a journalist anywhere, thus she started her own newspaper and is not afraid to confront the Padgett Company. She is bold and tells Sylvie to keep asking questions as she needs a real go-getter. As Sylvie reports on all those accidents in the mountains, she wonders why nothing is being done about it.
But money talks, and Sylvie takes a better paid position as a secretary to Mrs. Padgett. They take a fieldtrip to the worker’s camp to write a report and recommendations for improvements for the Padgett Company, where Sylvie’s father works. Mrs. Padgett has a good heart and honestly thinks that her husband cares about her work. But Mr. Padgett just plays along and keeps his wife busy.
The Padgett family is to host King Leopold II of Belgium, called a monster for his mistreatment of enslaved Africans in Congo. This invitation doesn’t sit well with the son, Jasper, who also takes the liking to Sylvie.
Over the summer, Sylvie gets a taste of a different world, which sets her on a path questioning many things: which path would she pick if she had the choice, the one with the money or the one that was fighting for justice. Money seems to be very tempting.
The story has a good punch when Mother Jones makes an appearance. She is certainly a force to reckon with, and makes some faint with her forceful talk. She knows how to rally the people into action. It seems her talk is contagious, and Sylvie catches it.
The character of Sylvie comes more alive when Mother Jones makes the appearance. Sylvie starts feeling more confident reporting on unjust treatment of workers. Her father fought for the union and after his death, she carries the torch.
The story brings a vivid transformation that Sylvie goes through as well as the workers, who, at first, are scared to go on a strike, but with such fire as Mother Jones, they get courage to start making those steps.
Written with wit, the novel explores the fight for equality. It brings the harsh times of the mining industry, and the enrichment and ruthlessness of one through the cost of another who just wanted a decent life.
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