Little, Brown, Apr 2002, 25.95, 384 pp.
In 1929, Honora and Sexton Beecher move into their New Hampshire home. Honora loves her new place though it needs plenty of work. She adores her traveling salesman-husband until she learns why he is so successful at selling typewriters as he plays games with the truth. Soon Honora realizes that he stretches veracity with her too.
When the economy tanks, Sexton loses his job and accepts employment at the mill where conditions are atrocious and pay and hours are despicable. Sexton joins a group of union organizers protesting the inhuman factory conditions. Through her husband, Honora meets union activist McDermott and preadolescent worker Francis. As Honora increasingly loses respect for Sexton, she turns to the seemingly more honest McDermott and an upper class friend Vivian for probity. With a strike looming, Honora joins the oppressed against the wishes of her spouse.
SEA GLASS is a well-written historical fiction novel that provides the audience with a window to the impact of the Great Depression on various social classes. The tale is deep as readers observe the dangerous factory conditions a half century after Dickens as it impacts the blue-collar worker. The efforts to maintain moral standards by the middle class are cleverly described. Finally the influence with the stock market collapse on the upper crust makes for a rounded novel. Ms. Shreve is at her best with this triumphant look back to New Englanders on the verge of ruin.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner