“Reliance, Illinois,” is both the title and the setting for a second novel from author Mary Volmer. This Mississippi river town in 1875 is home to murder, misrepresentation and mayhem.
Thirteen-year-old Madelyn Branch arrives in Reliance after her mother agrees to a marriage arranged via a classified advertisement. Since a daughter wasn’t part of the marital agreement, Madelyn is made to assume the role of a sister. She struggles with her self-image and self-worth due not only to this misrepresentation, but also because of a large birthmark that covers half of her face.
Yearning for some kind of a personal connection, Madelyn becomes enamored with William Stark, a troubled local photographer. Knowing she is unwelcomed by her new “brother-in-law,” Madelyn eventually escapes his unhappy household to become a servant to a wealthy resident, Rose Werner.
Miss Werner is a suffragette and advocate for women’s rights, which qualifies her as a “provocateur” in the opinion of most of the townspeople of Reliance, Illinois. She and her staff introduce Madelyn to many new ideas and possibilities.
Madelyn discovers the body of another young female resident of Reliance, Illinois, and learns this girl also had a relationship with her beloved William Stark. As all of these story lines come together, Madelyn begins to understand her place in the world and the possibilities available to her.
l“Reliance, Illinois” is an entertaining historical novel.