Donati’s saga of a New York family in the 1880s, with its exquisitely realized characters, is apt to inspire repeated readings ... As she brings the sights, sounds, smells, and social mores of 1884 New York into sharp focus, Donati creates a timely tale of the past that illuminates the ongoing struggle for women’s reproductive rights and sheds light on the passionate, centuries-long fight over abortion.
It is sooooo nice to have a big, fat book in your hands and know with confidence that it will be a terrific read from the moment you open the cover...We can thank Sara Donati for this delightful luxury ... She evokes the world, the problems, the personalities of the time and place so well that it’s easy to forget you’re reading...And because she’s a thorough researcher, you can trust her presentation. Therefore, while lost in the fictional drama, you can’t help but learn about the politics, lifestyles, and technologies of the period, and understand how they led to our time. These are hallmarks of masterfully composed historical fiction ... In further demonstration of the author’s skill, the multiple viewpoints used to tell the story are seamlessly connected. One never loses track of who, where, when, and what; and the why behind each scene is either crystal clear or clearly another strand of the larger story progressing toward the conclusion ... the book itself is uplifting. Each character is psychologically strong despite the many bad things that happen to them or their loved ones, or the helpless ones in their care. We are left with a sense of accomplishment and hope ... If there’s a flaw to be found, it lies in occasional 'laundry list' descriptions ... shows a writer who never stops improving technically while still burning with passion for her subject.
Donati’s compelling prose explores ethnic and religious differences of the time. Readers will find themselves lost in late 19th-century New York City, from the orphanages to the practice of medicine and the court system ... Storytelling so rich in detail it borders on minutiae may be a distraction for some readers. Despite a central theme based on a police investigation, this story should not be confused for a mystery. Give this to readers who care more about the journey than the destination.
Donati crafts strong female characters who draw upon the wisdom of their ancestors to transcend the slings and arrows of petty racism and sexism. She juxtaposes these women, thriving on the energies of the zeitgeist advancing women’s rights, with the villains, who sink into the muck of dubious morality crusades, such as the anti-contraception and anti-abortion campaigns of Anthony Comstock and the xenophobic orphanage system run by the Roman Catholic Church. Through Sophie’s and Anna’s work, Donati sketches in the historical backdrop of reproductive challenges in late-19th-century America ... Detectives, doctors, and dastardly scoundrels abound in this fascinating historical novel.
Donati captivates ... The number of interwoven relationships among all characters is occasionally distracting, but this is offset by exceptional characterizations. Elegant prose, entrancing era descriptions, and occasional bits of wit add to the impact. This is a riveting medical mystery.