Prize Women

Harper Perennial. Feb. 2023. 448p. ISBN 9780063244344. pap. $18. F
Toronto’s “Great Stork Derby” and the Great Depression inform Lea’s historical novel which, on a micro level, spotlights the abuse and misrepresentation of women during this era. When childless lawyer Charles Millar writes a controversial will offering the bulk of his fortune to the woman who bears the most children between 1926 and 1936, this sets the scene for the lives of Lily di Marco and Mae Thébault to collide. Lily, fleeing with her son from an abusive husband, seems totally unlike rich, glamorous Mae. But both women are struggling with the roles and restrictions imposed upon them as women and mothers, as well as with the economic privations of the time. The Stork Derby offers Mae and Lily a possible way out of their spiraling lives, but it also threatens to destroy their burgeoning friendship.
VERDICT Lea explores important issues and does not shy away from some of the heartbreaking aspects of life in the 1920s and 1930s. Fans of her earlier novel The Metal Heart or of Juliet Grames’s The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna might enjoy this new and significant offering.
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