Ballantine, Feb 8 2011, $15.00
When Jude Rosenthal suddenly died from a heart attack, he left behind a widow Meg, a teen daughter Sally and a ton of debt. With no time to grieve and unable to remain in their exclusive Long Island home, Meg quickly accepts a teaching position at the Acadia private school in the Catskills in Acadia Falls; Sally receives free tuition to attend.
Soon after mother and daughter arrive, a student Isabel dies after falling off a nearby cliff. Meg learns the school was founded just before the Depression by a lesbian couple Vera Beecher and author Lily Eberhardt who wrote the classic fable "The Changeling Girl." Lily fell from the same cliff that Isabel just did. Meanwhile Sheriff Callum Reade investigates the recent fall while he and the new teacher are attracted to one another. Meg find Lily's lost diary and learns that painter Virgil Nash impregnated her, which is why the painter fled her lover to paint a mural for a convent, St. Lucy's for unwed mothers and orphans. Years later Lily’s daughter Ivy St. Clare arrived to attend the school; the same woman who is now dean of the school.
Although over edge of the cliff, the strong characters make for a taut thriller. The emphasis is on the role of women in society as females make difficult choices often alone that sacrifice their desires and impact their loved ones. Frequently, the female is unfairly held accountable by others who fail to wear the “Scarlet Letter” wearer’s moccasins; instead ignore the available possibilities that the decision maker weighed costs (including emotional) vs. benefits, which makes it easier to morally condemn the female for her selection. Character driven with a strong cast including the journals written by the lesbian lovers, readers will enjoy this deep tale of choices.