A modern Edith Wharton heroine returns to the hothouse of Cleveland society, raising eyebrows as she struggles to reconcile her desire for independence and her need for love.
Eleanor Hart had made a brilliant marriage in New York, but it ended in a scandalous divorce and thirty days in Sierra Tucson rehab. Now she finds that, despite feminist lip service, she will still need a husband to be socially complete. Navigating the treacherous social terrain where old money meets new, she finds that her beauty is a powerful tool in this world, but it has its limitations, even liabilities. Through one misstep after another, Ellie mishandles her second act. Her options narrow, and now she faces a desperate choice.
Reading Group Guide
Cleveland, like many rust belt cities at the dawn of the twentieth century, was an industrial juggernaut fueled by coal, steel, and shipping on the Great Lakes. The wealth from this commerce set up a society of leading civic families. Generations later, these original family names are still Cleveland’s elite, bonded together through an unspoken code of behavior and a web of interwoven relationships. When failed iconoclast Ellie Hart returns to her hometown after divorce and scandal, she challenges this cosseted group’s priorities, morals, and expectations. In this modern retelling of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, feminism, friendship, and the unwritten laws of society are braided together and showcased in this beautifully descriptive, inquisitive novel about a woman trying to change her fate.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In parts of this novel, there is first-person narration from an unnamed woman: a wife, friend, and mother-to-be. In other parts there is a third-pers see more