Alexis Harrington tells a down-to-earth tale set during one of the most trying times of the 20th century. While reading about heroine Jessica Layton, her hometown of Powell Springs becomes alive as well. However, this story doesn't just show readers Powell Springs, but also New York, Seattle and the entire nation. The cities are fully fleshed out and have unique personalities that aid the characters' development. Harrington doesn't shy away from the gritty details of rural life or the atrocious nature of the flu epidemic and World War I. By embracing it all, the author creates a rich, complex world for readers. Meanwhile, Jessica struggles with society's expectations of gender roles, career choices and personal needs. As she evolves, backtracks and tries to find her way, the town and its inhabitants react and change with her. The tale is beautiful in every dark detail and bright moment of hope.

Years ago, Jessica Layton left her small town home of Powell Springs, with its small mindedness and big problems, to become a doctor in New York City. But now, in the midst of World War I and the raging flu epidemic, it's time for another change of scenery. Jessica needs to leave behind the nightmares of working with the flu-ridden poor in an overcrowded city. On her way to a new research position in Seattle, Jessica stops in Powell Springs, but she can't leave her hometown fast enough. Her sister on the brink of an engagement to Jessica's ex-flame, Cole Braddock, and her new job in Seattle is urgently calling for her to come. Jessica has to make some tough decisions about where she belongs and whether she can finally move beyond her past. (MONTLAKE, December 2011, 328 pp., $14.99) 

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Reviewed by: 
Abigail Ortlieb