History comes alive in The Brewer's Women, a novel that focuses on the women in the life of Jackson Koehler, a nineteenth century brewer in Erie, Pennsylvania. Author Mary Frances Baugh, a Koehler descendant, still lives in Erie.
Her characters own the first automobile in Erie and learn the joys of indoor plumbing. They fight for women's voting rights and witness the temperance movement. They suffer through unpreventable childhood diseases and survive the 1891 influenza pandemic. Throughout these historical events--both the pleasurable and the disastrous--each character's strengths and weaknesses are exposed.
Jackson Koehler and his wife, Belle, are the main characters in a life-long love story with many surprises. As Jackson's new wife, Belle knows nothing of love, the rigors of keeping house, or the pleasures of sex. She resents her husband but serves him dutifully, bearing daughter after daughter, hoping one day to give Jackson the son he has longed for. Their sex life is troubled, and when Jackson has an affair, the future changes for everyone.
The novel also tells of the relationship between Jackson and his favorite daughter, Susan, who was born with a caul; theirs is a story of jealousy, self-destruction, and ultimately, forgiveness. Another character named Sally, a woman with whom Jackson had an affair, returns to Erie ill and needy. Her return prompts unexpected results and a new relationship is forged in a story of survival.
At its core, The Brewer's Women is about the stuff of real life: marriage, sex, birth, death, adultery, forgiveness, repentance, charity, desperation, devastation, hope, survival, and joy. And above all, Love.
I highly recommend The Brewer's Women.
Mary Frances Baugh is a published poet. She turned to the novel form to try and understand the lives of her Erie ancestors. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a Master's degree from the University of Evansville in Indiana, she has taught at every level, including college, and finds teaching three granddaughters an exciting challenge. She is a member of the Philadelphia Granny Peace Brigade and the International Women's Writing Guild. For more about the book, see the website.
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