Tess DeMello abruptly leaves Baltimore’s LIttle Italy and expectations of wedded bliss with a man she grew to love throughout her childhood to marry a man from a small southern town, cutting off the future of his expected marriage to a local girl. She has trapped herself in a loveless marriage, alienated by her husband’s family, their friends, and the townfolk. She slowly learns about the enigmatic man she married as she attempts to find her way back to herself against all obstacles, including him. A polio epidemic changes the town, all hearts and minds focused on treating its victims, and Tess DeMello Kraft becomes a highly respected nurse.
Diane Chamberlain has upped the ante with her historical fiction, weaving her imaginative tale throughout a real event in Hickory, NC, where a polio hospital was built and staffed over two days. Tess becomes a nurse against her wealthy husband’s wishes, and ends up working in this hospital with a doctor who is her childhood true love. I love when an author sets fictional characters into fascinating historical events, so that history comes alive, and I remember details and dates, which often elude me. Chamberlain throws the reader through loop-de-loops and draws everything credibly toward a credible, heartening end.
Readers who love historical fiction based on real events, not necessarily historical figures, will appreciate this novel, with its complicated race relations and laws of the times, and its complex characters true to themselves and to the time. If you fall in love with timeless, relatable characters, read Diane Chamberlain.