Don’t let the seasonal image of idyllic warm months fool you; this one is pretty bleak. Charity is seventeen, more or less an orphan, and leaves her small rural life with relatives, to move to town and work with a local lawyer. The lawyer is stern and officious, and more offensive, he offers to marry her. She is repulsed and turns her attention to a hot local boy, Lucas. They flirt, it’s exciting, they have sex a bunch of times, and she gets pregnant. Later, she returns to her home town and realizes poverty is also not super attractive. So she’s got some choices to make.
This is a novella, and it’s hard to talk a lot about it without giving away various elements of the plot. It breaks a lot more toward the Ethan Frome side of Edith Wharton writings than the House of Mirth and Age of Innocence side. It’s a 1917 novella, taking place a little earlier, and like Edith Wharton’s other books (and forebears and contemporaries like Willa Cather and Kate Chopin) she’s not afraid to show sex as a real part of people’s lives and while it has consequences, those consequences are not as dire as say “Daisy Miller” some 40 years earlier.
Like I said it’s a little bleak, but it could definitely be worse for Charity. Instead, it’s a bubble bursting kind of book. It’s the kind of book that wouldn’t be bleak at all by a contemporary writer, but a working class girl getting a taste of middle class life only to have it backfire is a little sad nonetheless.