In Toni Rocha’s novel, set during the Great Depression, a young newlywed forsakes New York City for life in small-town Wisconsin.
When Julia Hamilton’s husband, Kevin, loses his brokerage firm in the Depression, the couple and Kevin’s difficult mother, Mavis, must give up their cosmopolitan lifestyle. Mavis’ sister, Emily, and brother-in-law, Ben, invite the three to share their home in Fish Creek, located in Door County, Wisconsin.
Julia soon finds a sense of fulfillment in the household’s strenuous daily chores and the town’s tight-knit community, and grows inclined to stay there. Even Mavis finds her niche—haggling with the shopkeepers—but she keeps the pressure on Kevin, now employed at a hotel, to return to New York and re-start his business. When Julia finds out she is pregnant, Kevin welcomes the news. But Kevin has been keeping secrets that are catching up with him, and whose consequences will devastate Julia.
Rocha excels at depicting the world through Julia’s eyes: her growing joy in her surroundings, the love she feels for those around her and her heartbreak at some of their actions. Indeed, all of Door’s characters are well drawn, particularly Mavis, who eventually reveals a softer side despite herself. The novel’s ending may wrap things up a bit too neatly and happily for some readers’ tastes, especially those intrigued by the story’s darker aspects, but it does so without straining credulity.
A small weakness is Rocha’s frequent mentioning of cultural developments of the period, including the introduction of Snickers bars, new fingerprinting technology, the latest book by William Faulkner and others. Occurring at such frequency, these references feel forced. A few homophone errors (e.g., “broach” for “brooch,” “illusive” for “elusive,” “peddled” for “pedaled”) are also distracting.
But the novel’s merits far outshine its minor flaws. Overall, Door offers a compelling, character-driven story that will appeal to fans of historical and mainstream women’s fiction alike.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.