Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
She found her place in a turbulent era of deep passions, heartbreaking sacrifices, and grand dreams
When scholarly, smart Mary Margaret is sixteen, her father marries her off to a drunken neighbor in return for a tract of land. The year is 1924, and Mary Margaret's motherless childhood has already been hard as a farm girl on the desolate prairies of North Dakota. Abused and helpless, the new Mrs. "Marge” Garrity seems destined for a tragic fate.
But Marge is determined to make her life count, no matter what. Her escape from her brutal marriage takes her to California, where she struggles to survive the Great Depression and soon answers the lure of the state's untamed northern half. There, embraced by the rough-and-ready people who built the great Ruck-a-chucky Dam on the American River, she begins to find her true mission in life and the possibility for love and happiness with an Army Corp engineer of Cherokee Indian descent.
This vivid saga of one woman's life in the early decades of a turbulent century is told from the heart of a true storyteller in the grand tradition of women's sagas.
Author Dolores Durando knows Marge's world very well. She grew up ninety years ago on the plains of North Dakota.
"This book is at times sad and painful but so very inspirational and uplifting. I highly recommend this one it is a great story whose characters will stay with you long after you put this book down!" -- Susie Sharp
"...a vibrantly realistic portrait of life in the Great Depression... inspirational, uplifting, and on occasion, heartbreaking. The ending of the novel is unexpected but absolutely perfect." -- Kathy Branfield , The Readers of the Round Table
"Storytelling at it's best..." -- Rachel, Rachel's Nookbookblog
"Durando's gift for breathing life and realism into both characters and scenes kept my eyes glued to the page" --Sharon Lippinco, Story Circle Book Reviews
In June, on her sixteenth birthday, the Justice of the Peace pronounced her Mrs. Ed Garrity. On the way home Ed leaned close to her, his stale breath wet on the side of her face, "Do ya feel any different, Mrs. Garrity?”
"No,” she whispered.
"Well, cheer up, you will,” he said with a sidelong glance.
That night when she went upstairs to bed she heard Pa and Ed laughing loudly as they chinked glasses and celebrated the marriage with a joke not meant for a lady's ears. She propped a chair against the door and lay rigid in her mother's bed, afraid to close her eyes. Hours later she heard him pushing and swearing at the door.
"Marge. Open this damn door,” he demanded.
"Go to bed, you're drunk.” Her terrified answer.
"Yer damn right I'm drunk, but not too drunk,” he chuckled. "I'm your husband now and I'm a comin' in.”
"Pa.” she screamed. "Pa, make Ed go away, make him go to the couch.”
"Open that door, Marge. He's your husband and he has the right.” yelled her Pa from downstairs.
The door flew open as the chair splintered and Ed lurched into the room, falling onto the bed. She was on her feet in an instant, screaming "Pa. Pa.” She stumbled over the chair; Ed knocked her back over the bed and shook her until she thought her neck would break.
"Listen here you damn little heifer, yer my wife and I have the right. Got that? Don't you try that again.”
Fear and shock ran through her as she smothered under his sweaty body. The pain came, agonizing pain, unlike any she had ever known. His sweat and her blood mingled as it stained her body and left its indelible scar forever.
"Pa.” She shrieked until her throat felt raw and Ed's huge beefy hand covered her mouth.
When he finished, he chuckled, "Now Mrs. Garrity, do you feel any different?” As she crawled to the edge of the bed and vomited, he turned, snoring beside her.
The next morning Ed slept in. The girl made coffee. Listlessly, through dry cracked lips, she asked, "Pa, why didn't you help me when I called out to you?”
"It was your party,” he shrugged. The coffeepot slipped out of her hand and the steaming brew ran through his hair and down his face. Pa leaped to his feet screaming, "Ya little bitch, ya did that on purpose.”
Hesitating in the kitchen doorway, the milk pail in her hand, she called back bitterly, "Sorry, Pa, I thought it was a party.” A small line fought to carve a smile on her lips as his curses bellowed after her all the way to the barn. She sat on the three-legged stool and sobbed. Her head bent against the old cow's warm flank, the milk and tears flowing together. If only Aunt Kate were still alive…where can I go? I'm worse than a slave to those drunken old men; surely it can't get any worse than this, she thought.
Later that day when both men had gone into town to play poker at the local tavern, Marge bridled the big draft mare and rode bareback fifteen miles to the Gunderson farm. They were not only the nearest, but the only neighbors that Marge knew. Ruth Gunderson was a loving and kind woman who had suspected something wasn't right when she heard the young neighbor girl had married the old man. She knew Ed's previous wife had left him; rumor had it for very good reasons.
The moment Ruth put her arms around her, the thin, quivering girl broke into hysterical tears, sobbing out her fear and outrage. Ruth sat with her arms around Marge and rocked her. She listened to Marge's story with tears in her eyes and frustration rising in her heart. It seemed there was nothing she could do to help this young girl. "I've been lucky … married to a good man for forty-five years. I don't know what to tell you except that I am here for you.” As Marge rode away, Ruth waved and called, "Try to take care of yourself; God's knows I'd help you if I could.”
Pa and Ed came home late that night, laughing about Ed's foul boasts to his poker buddies. "Yep, I'm a better man now than I was at twenty. There's a party every night at our house,” he bragged.
From her mother's bed, Marge heard their drunken laughter; she heard the springs in the worn old couch creak and knew that Ed couldn't make it up the stairs.
"Thank God … I hope they both die in their sleep.”