4.5 stars, actually.
In Depression era Boston, just as the anti-Irish prejudice was morphing into anti-Italian, Maeve Fanning comes home from the loony bin determined to find her way out of the messy, illegal booze-laden hole she’d dug herself into.
Her only help: a widowed mother in the poor North End desperate to keep up ladylike appearances with an impossible understanding of Maeve’s desperation for something other than settling down with a man.
The cobble together a peroxide blonde image of a cultured girl, a flimsy veneer that lands Maeve a job at an antique dealership as a salesgirl, where she encounters both a mysterious map pinned with all the exotic locations one of the shop owners has traveled and an acquaintance from her asylum days. The map is a gateway to the wonders of a world she’s never imagined, and the acquaintance a gateway into the gilded realms of the Boston rich.
One will be her undoing, the other her savior.
We follow along with Maeve as she basically allows herself to be used and manipulated into roles in orbit around the dubiously rich Van de Laar family while her old friends look on with concern. Drink is her downfall, and the book does present her need to drink, but like the intimation of a past rape and glancing touch on other horrors, it never quite lets us soak long enough in Maeve’s cravings or self destructive behavior to let that sink in. She comes off sometimes as a party girl and not as self-hurting a hinted at before her asylum time. The author steers us away sometimes abruptly from the worst scenes.
But the world of Boston with a hint of depression and prohibition is interesting to hang out in with Maeve for a while. The book ends a bit abruptly for me as well, and the romantic heart in me wished we got another chapter of Maeve hanging out with her boss 😉