By Ekta R. Garg
October 17, 2018
Genre: Women’s fiction; historical fiction
Release date: August 28, 2018
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A reporter makes a choice that changes his career and threatens the livelihood of a family. When he decides to reverse his decision, he’ll need to use all of his skills to make things right again for all involved. Author Kristina McMorris transports readers to the depths of the Depression and makes 1930s New York City and Philadelphia come alive in her excellent novel Sold on A Monday.
Reporter Ellis Reed is sick of his job. He always imagined he’d become a journalist and chase down hot leads on the most pressing stories of the day. Instead he’s filing stories for the Society page of the Philadelphia Examiner; who wants a byline on pieces that should be written by women?
Ellis gives up a Sunday afternoon to cover a quilting bee and comes across a sight that makes him stop in his tracks. He sees a pair of kids on a dilapidated front porch, and above them hangs a sign that reads “Two children for sale.” The sign, Ellis knows, provides tangible evidence of the times.
It’s 1931, and the country is in a Depression the likes of which no one has ever seen. His heart aches for the family, and he takes a picture. He doesn’t even know yet what he’ll do with it, just that he wants to capture the image.
Back at the paper, Lily Palmer, secretary to the editor-in-chief, sees Ellis’s photo. It makes her mourn for the circumstances of the parents who have to make the choice to sell their children. Between Lily and Ellis, the photo ends up on the editor’s desk. The editor gives Ellis the chance he’s wanted all along: to write a real feature story. Within weeks Ellis’s story and photo get picked up by news outlets all over the country.
Ellis is thrilled with the success and the subsequent job offer that comes from a bigger paper in New York City. When he moves from Philly to NYC, he carries his belongings and a secret: he took the photo, yes, but he manipulated it. As he struggles to maintain the initial potential shown by that photo, he finds himself going down some dubious routes to impress his new boss.
Lily comes to New York to visit and stops in to drop off some of the fan mail that still arrives in Philadelphia for Ellis. The two receive news about the children in the photo and decide to find out what happened to them; when they do, the news isn’t good. As they work together and retrace the steps the children took, Ellis and Lily will have to learn to trust one another every step of the way if they’re going to make amends with everyone involved.
Author Kristina McMorris evokes the Depression era with some well-placed mentions of historical facts and events of those years. While she spends a great deal of time on the developing relationship between Ellis and Lily, McMorris also touches on other issues such as unwed mothers, parent guilt, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and the Mob. Some readers might consider McMorris’s treatment of these topics sanitized, but by avoiding the temptation to dig into salacious details McMorris is free to deal with the story at hand.
McMorris handles Ellis’s guilt with ease. She makes his struggle believable, and the fact that Lily must also struggle with her own issues while trying to help Ellis and maintain a proper distance from him will offer enough conflict to make readers happy. Additional subplots with Ellis’s father and a secret that Lily hides from everyone at work round out the story in a three-dimensional way.
The resolution might come across as a little pat, and starting the story with the end seems like an unnecessary device to pique readers’ interest. These minor matters aside, McMorris offers an enjoyable, satisfying book. I recommend readers Bookmark Sold on a Monday.