This novel describes what happens during a quiet decade in a small Southern town. Lucy Summerlin, poor and unmarried, works for the richest family in Perquimmons City, North Carolina. She is ordered about by the odious Mrs. Merritt, made to clean and tutor the woman’s obnoxious children. She eats meager meals in the servants’ quarters and sleeps in the attic. We’re never told why Lucy must live in these circumstances, since her family is apparently wonderful.
However, after 11 years, Lucy is rescued by her brother Chip, who buys the town’s lucrative drugstore, elevating his income and place in society. He gives Lucy a job in his store and rents her a house. Life moves along. The various characters have meals, babies, go to parties, garden, buy cars, get into politics. Lucy rejects two suitors, but she’s loved by her relatives and friends and enjoys her cottage, garden and cat.
One break in all the calm occurs when Mr. Merritt, who is known for seducing his young female servants, is murdered. Still, nobody seems to care, and no arrests are made.
The story contains other elements that seem unrealistic, as well. Most characters are attractive, happy, care deeply for each other, and are generous beyond expectations. Lucy and many in her family believe that blacks and women shouldn’t be discriminated against — views that were rare in that time and place. Oddly, while the blacks in the book speak in dialect, as does the nasty Mrs. Merritt, nobody else does.
Many sentences are so crammed with words they seem about to burst. Explanations are over-long and the reader may conclude the author doesn’t trust them to draw their own conclusions. Ultimately, the story lacks the dramatic tension that makes for a compelling read.