Authors: Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Tags: #Fiction - Historical, #Family & Relationships, #19th Century, #New York
A VIOLET SEASON
“In this stunning debut, Kathy Leonard Czepiel illuminates the sometimes heartbreaking choices women can face as they struggle to preserve their families, their marriages, their very sense of self.”
—LAUREN BELFER, bestselling author of
City of Light
A Fierce Radiance
A Violet Season
is a wonderful and well-earned debut for a brand-new writer, and I so look forward to her next book.”
—ROBERT OLMSTEAD, author of
The Coldest Night
“The best historical fiction doesn’t bring the past to the reader but carries the reader into the past, to see it, touch it, smell it, live it. In
A Violet Season
Kathy Leonard Czepiel transplants her readers among the blooms at a turn-of-the-century violet farm in New York State, a captivatingly unique time and place, and teaches them how hardy a plant—and a woman—can be. Smell the violets with Joe Jacobs, and with Joe you will ‘hardly imagine anything wrong with the world.’ See Ida Fletcher’s pain—‘a great room with a cold floor and a light so bright it hurt to look,’ and you won’t be able to leave Ida’s side, through mistakes and accomplishments large and small.”
—SALLY GUNNING, author of
The Rebellion of Jane Clarke
A Violet Season
by Kathy Leonard Czepiel is a moving and detailed look at the hopes and hardships women faced at the turn of the last century . . . fascinating . . . rich in historical detail.”
TAYLOR POLITES, author of
The Rebel Wife
Copyright © 2012 by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
All rights reserved.
For information address Simon & Schuster Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
First Simon & Schuster trade paperback edition July 2012
SIMON & SCHUSTER PAPERBACKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Designed by Jill Putorti
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Czepiel, Kathy Leonard.
A violet season / Kathy Leonard Czepiel.—1st Simon & Schuster trade paperback ed.
1. Wet nurses—Fiction. 2. Farmers—Fiction. 3. Married people—Fiction. 4. Hudson River Valley (N.Y. and N.J.)—History—19th century—Fiction.
ISBN: 978-1451655087 (ebook)
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For my parents,
who told me I could write
My mother? Oh, dear. What do you want to know about my mother?
We’re interested in what life was like for women in Albany County dating as far back as memory takes us. You don’t mind if I tape this, do you?
No, that would be fine.
So, tell me a little bit about your mother.
I’m an old woman, and I still don’t know what to think of my mother.
—excerpt from an interview with Mrs. Alice Vreeland for
The Women of Albany County,
July 6, 1972
THE POUGHKEEPSIE DAILY EAGLE NEWS
April 22, 1898
—By a respectable woman with plenty of nourishment; a healthy baby to nurse at her own home. Mrs. Fletcher. Violet Ridge, Underwood, New York.
was due to leave Rondout Creek at half past five. From the barnyard, Ida watched the wagon carrying Alice and her cousins as it wobbled down the rain-rutted driveway on its way to the dock. Of the four girls, Alice was the tallest, but she wasn’t looking up like the others, who were straining to hear their aunt calling to them from the big porch. Instead, she slouched, her eyes on the wagon floor.
Ida raised her hand to wave, and milk pulsed into her corset pads. Grief lapped again at her feet.
Clinging heavily to her skirt, Jasper asked, “Susie?”
Ida set down her empty laundry basket and lifted him to her hip, though her breasts were firm and soaking, and she didn’t wish to hold him close. “Our Susie has gone home,” she told him, still watching as the team pulled the wagon left onto Dutch Lane, then tilted over the ridge toward the river.
“Susie,” Jasper said, gripping Ida’s shoulder, then squirming to get away. She set his feet on the ground.
“We’re going for a ride on a steamship!” she told him as he toddled away in search of the baby.
Susie was home with her own mother now, as Ida had always hoped she would be. Yet it was terrible to think they would never
see her again—never see her wispy hair grow into thick curls, nor hear her babbling turn into language, nor discover what kind of a girl she would become. She had been Ida’s first nursling, a boarder of sorts. But Ida had surprised herself by falling in love with this one as hard as with her own babies. It was impossible, she knew now, to be responsible for the life of a child—for whether it might thrive or perish—and not to love it. Impossible for her, at least.
Frank would rail at her for this softness if she showed it. Wet nursing was a business, a way for her to help him keep up. Always, always, he was struggling to keep up, and she must do her part. Today that meant finishing the chores in time for his nephew Norris’s twenty-first birthday party and behaving at that party as if nothing were wrong, as if she were as confident of her position on this farm as her sisters-in-law. As if she, like Alice, weren’t always tense with watching and waiting.
Ida carried her basket to the line where Susie’s sheets and Jasper’s bibs and her own cotton nursing pads had dried in the sun. As she pulled the wooden pins from the stiff laundry, she could see her sister-in-law Frances up on her porch in a feathered hat, directing the loading of another wagon with crates of party supplies: satin streamers and paper lanterns and floral centerpieces made from Frances’s cutting garden, for the violets were out of season. From down here, only the staccato delivery of her words could be heard, but Ida knew just how she was speaking to the poor driver, just as she herself would be spoken to later, no doubt.
Within the hour, Ida was dressed in her striped shirtwaist and Sunday skirt, with clean padding in her corset, and Jasper on her lap in his coverall suit. The older children had all gone ahead, and now the women followed: Ida with her other sister-in-law, Harriet, in the back of the phaeton, and Frances in front with the driver, fussing with her gloves. In the small pasture, the milk cow and her pregnant daughter stood with their haunches to them, heads in the dewy grass.