Shocked from her casual life of privilege, Jo Montfort learns quickly when she finds out her father has died in an accident that her entire world can come crashing down. In the late 1800s in New York, the upper society prided itself on being discrete and young ladies doing what was expected of them. Writing for a newspaper and having thoughts for oneself were NOT what was expected OR accepted if you were a young woman. Your only goal in life was to marry and marry well.
Jo knows all of this, but can’t help feeling that she will be missing out on many things if she just goes along with the accepted conventional wisdom and marries Bram, a friend of the family. It isn’t until she learns of her father’s death that she really begins to question everything in her life.
After her father’s funeral, Jo goes on an errand and overhears a newspaper reporter, by the name of Eddie, who insists that her father’s death was no accident. He says that Charles Montfort killed himself. At first, Jo can’t even wrap her mind around this idea, but it makes better sense than an accident with his gun. However as she begins to delve deeper in the mystery surrounding her father’s death and in turn his shipping business with Eddie’s help, she starts to wonder if she really wants to know the truth.
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly is a fabulous historical fiction book with a nice dash of romance and mystery. The seedier side of New York is exposed and it will make girls very glad of the opportunities we have now, as opposed to the limited life lead just over 100 years ago.
Recommended for 8th graders.