In the 1930s, several years after losing her arm in a factory accident on her 16th birthday, Violet Mathers leaves her small Kentucky town. Her greatest wish is to become the second person to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Violet's mother abandoned her when she was a child, and her drunken father insisted she was ugly and worthless.

But Violet's bus gets in an accident near Pearl, North Dakota, and she is taken in by the Hedstrom family and their handsome son Kjel. Violet then joins Kjel and his African-American friend Austin on a trip across the country as the manager and seamstress of their band, the Pearltones. Violet emerges from the shell of a hardened young woman into a witty and wonderful lady.

Violet's transformation is magical as she learns to rise above the discrimination she faces over her handicap. Juxtaposed against Violet's difficulties is the prejudice that Austin faces when he and Violet become romantically involved. Landvik brings the Great Depression richly to life. (Apr., 400 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick