Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

     I enjoyed almost everything about this book; from the relationship between Ivy and Rose Adams to the depiction of New York City during the roaring Twenties. The sisters are orphaned by their less then forthright father, and then discover that the estate was left to a brother they did not know existed. They decide to take themselves off to New York in search of this brother in a scheme to find him and get him to basically right the world for them.

Like a lot of families, the Adams’ family pigeon-holed the sisters seemingly from the beginning of their lives. Rose, the eldest by a mere year, was seen as the nurturer and responsible one. When their mother died, it was Rose who took over as mother, while at the same time sewed in order to earn enough money to keep the household going. Ivy, while only one year younger was able to continue her life of play and frivolity. She was her father’s favorite and was taken with him on trips that had to do with his research for the botany books that he wrote.

     While Ivy and their father were gone, Rose was content to stay at home and read her books. She believed that she would never marry, but stay home and keep house for their father. Ivy, on the other hand was adored by their father, and believed herself to be a great actress, always claiming that she would go to New York and become famous. So, when the sisters need to go to New York, Ivy is thrilled, and Rose is dismayed.

The book continues with their need to find work and solve the mystery of finding their brother. While searching, Ivy and Rose’s relationship take a turn for the worse, since they have found no way to have a relationship other than one based on the old pigeon-holed views of each other. Somehow the authors made us feel for both sisters, and managed to portray each of them in an understanding way. Showing how families can ruin, without meaning to, even what should be the closest of relationships.

     This book is a story of the Roaring Twenties; sisterhood in all its glory and lack thereof; and a mystery all rolled up in one. While reading it, I felt that I was in the middle of those gloriously boozy days and nights of Prohibition; the hysteria that seemed to accompany the few years before the Depression; and a mystery that was a thrill to solve. I enjoyed this book very much, and highly recommend it.

 

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