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Unmentionables
Cover of Unmentionables
Unmentionables
A Novel
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"A historical, feminist romance . . . a realistic evocation of small-town America circa 1917, including its racial tensions." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "96 Books for Your Summer Reading...
"A historical, feminist romance . . . a realistic evocation of small-town America circa 1917, including its racial tensions." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "96 Books for Your Summer Reading...
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  • "A historical, feminist romance . . . a realistic evocation of small-town America circa 1917, including its racial tensions." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "96 Books for Your Summer Reading List"
    Marian Elliot Adams, an outspoken advocate for sensible undergarments for women, sweeps onto the Chautauqua stage under a brown canvas tent on a sweltering August night in 1917, and shocks the gathered town of Emporia with her speech: How can women compete with men in the workplace and in life if they are confined by their undergarments? The crowd is further appalled when Marian falls off the stage and sprains her ankle, and is forced to remain among them for a week. As the week passes, she throws into turmoil the town's unspoken rules governing social order, women, and African Americans—and captures the heart of Emporia's recently widowed newspaper editor. She pushes Deuce Garland to become a greater, braver, and more dynamic man than he ever imagined was possible. As Deuce puts his livelihood and reputation on the line at home, Marian's journey takes her to the frozen mud of France's Picardy region, just beyond the lines, to help destitute villagers as the Great War rages on.
    Marian is a powerful catalyst that forces nineteenth-century Emporia into the twentieth century; but while she agitates for enlightenment and justice, she has little time to consider her own motives and her extreme loneliness. Marian, in the end, must decide if she has the courage to face small-town life, and be known, or continue to be a stranger always passing through.
    "A sweeping and memorable story of struggle and suffrage, love and redemption." —New York Journal of Books

About the Author-

  • Laurie Loewenstein grew up in the flatlands of western Ohio and now resides in Rochester, NY, where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in 1872. Unmentionables is her first novel.
    Kaylie Jones is the award-winning author of five novels and a memoir. She teaches writing at two MFA programs and lives in New York City.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 30, 2013
    In this double debut—Loewenstein’s first novel, and the first selection from Akashic’s Kaylie Jones Books imprint—history, in the form of women’s suffrage, WWI, and American race relations, is writ small, traced in the fortunes of a few residents of Caledonia, Ill. Marian Elliot Adams arrives in the town in August 1917 to take part in a weeklong Chautauqua assembly, a popular adult education event of the period. Her intent—to discuss “the restrictive nature of women’s undergarments”—proves equal parts shocking and titillating to her audience. When she falls and sprains her ankle following the speech, Marian is forced to spend a week in Caledonia, which leads her to reconsider her prejudices against smalltown life, while also pushing some of the townspeople she meets to examine their own deeply-held beliefs. Among the most affected are Deuce Garland, publisher of the local newspaper, and his stepdaughter, Helen. Marian’s path subsequently takes her to France during the waning days of WWI, where she does medical relief work, while at home Deuce becomes a muckraking journalist after losing control of his newspaper. Loewenstein traces a less adventurous path with her storytelling, wrapping up everything in a neatly happy ending, but along the way her tale is contagiously enthusiastic, if predictable.

  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2013
    Big issues are examined through the lens of a small town after a campaigner for less restrictive undergarments visits Caledonia, Ill., in 1917. Politics and passions run high in Loewenstein's spirited if soft-centered debut set in a Middle-American community still in touch with its pioneering past. Women's liberation, public health standards, even modern art are some of the new ideas entering the conversation, while racism and miscegenation, patronage and prejudice also play their parts in the story. The catalyst for change is anti-corsetry campaigner Marian Elliot Adams, who arrives in town for the Chautauqua convinced that the adoption of her ideas will bring positive results. But Marian has a hard lesson to learn, as do the novel's other main figures: newspaperman Deuce Garland and his modern-minded stepdaughter, Helen. Over a 12-month span, Deuce will learn to stand up for his past and his future, Helen will follow her destiny to Chicago, and Marian will work for the war effort in France. Reuniting at the Chautauqua in 1918, all three will be more cleareyed about ideas old, new and unmentionable, as well as their co-mingled futures. Although a tendency toward easy solutions undermines the book's larger ambitions, Loewenstein's appealing voice and freshness enliven her well-researched story of personal and political ferment. Engaging first work from a writer of evident ability.

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2014

    Loewenstein's remarkable debut was selected as a Midwest Connections Pick for January and is the first book in a new imprint from Akashic curated by award-winning author Kaylie Jones (Speak Now). In August 1917, Marian Elliot Adams, a fiercely independent advocate for women's rights, is traveling with the "Chautauqua circuit," promoting their message of "sensible undergarments for women." When she takes to the stage one hot night in Caledonia, IL, her speech shocks the local residents, who are further disgusted when she falls from the stage and sprains her ankle, forcing her to stay in town for a week. One week turns into many, and Marian's presence reveals Caledonia's long-held but unspoken rules regarding women, African Americans, and social order. After befriending the town's newspaper publisher, Deuce Garland, and his stepdaughter Helen, Marian begins to question her own motives and must contemplate continuing her chosen life of a visitor always passing through, or being known in a small town. VERDICT This immensely entertaining and illuminating book transports the reader back in time while confronting the timeless matters of courage, sacrifice, race, gender, love, and death. Exceptionally readable and highly recommended.--Lisa Block, Atlanta

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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