With the Great Depression looming and about to define America's next decade, three strong-minded women related by marriage form an uneasy household in the summer of 1929. Forced by her husband Harry to uproot their two small children from Illinois and take up residence in East Texas, Marie Hennessey struggles to find a place not only within her mother-in-law's home but in a Southern town whose troubling unfamiliarities compound her marital woes and homesickness.
Maude Hennessey has little patience for Marie and her children, and even less for her pretty but petulant daughter, Rachel, who fights and flirts with a dashing pilot from New Orleans. Colliding issues of faith and sexual mores, racial proprieties and class distinctions, fuel a constant bickering through the narrow corridors of the house, all three women heedless of the love that has brought them together. Maude seems cold and distant except toward the ladies of her club; Rachel's affection for her doting aviator rises and falls capriciously; and Maude seeks to understand an absent husband, while deciding how to receive her employer's slow seduction.
As summer wears on, the conflicts among these women are exacerbated by a child murder that sends shockwaves of fear and mistrust throughout the community, particularly between the town's white residents and a black shantytown across the river. An ever-increasing sense of dread culminates in the arrival of a terrible storm whose aftermath reveals poignant and unexpected truths these three women living at a time when America was poised on the brink of economic catastrophe.
In The Last Rose of Summer, Monte Schulz has created a story about three women and their interior and exterior lives, each of whom symbolizes quintessential American notions of family, love and community. In so doing, he reminds us all of where we come from and how we got here. With an elegiac voice that evokes an era in its final bloom, and a thoughtful rendering of the public and private contentions that ruled the day, The Last Rose of Summer becomes an instant American classic.
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Praise for Schulz:
"Monte Schulz's novel This Side of Jordan shows that 'Like Father Like Son' — both superb!" — Ray Bradbury
"Schulz, son of the beloved Peanuts cartoonist, proves himself to be a handy wordsmith in this literarily ambitious novel of pre-Depression America. ... Those who savor authentic details of a bygone era will be rapt by Schulz's delightful displays of staccato, wise-guy diction, and his cascading sheets of period description that set the scenes. Hand this straight-faced and multifaceted almost-satire to fans of the Southern Gothic tradition, all the way from Flannery O'Connor to John Kennedy Toole." — Booklist
"Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, a veritable time-machine that whirled me through time to the dirty back roads of the American Midwest in the year before the Great Depression. ... Did I mention how good the writing is? The writing is excellent. A masterpiece of setting and storytelling." — Boing Boing