How could something so large become so small and still look so similar? And how could people have missed the connection for so long? Did no one gaze into the face of a bird before the scientists pinpointed the connection?
In evolution, I see God working things out, finding ways to help his creatures adapt to the changing conditions on this planet--often in incredible ways. For me, modern science only confirms the obvious.
A murder mystery, it's set in 1948, that year of iniquity when women were being told they shouldn't have careers, but should return to the kitchen.
Jill Szekely has finally, after a long struggle, broken away from a potentially happy but always difficult marriage to a Jewish refugee, Zoltan, a wannabe concert pianist who is world class but not yet in a position to earn money. When Zoltan is charged with murder, Jill knows he isn't guilty but to prove it, she would have to re-involve herself in the relationship she'd so painfully broken off. She needs to get on with her own life and career, long placed on hold while she helped Zoltan with his. Yet it would be unthinkable for him, after escaping Hitler, to spend his life in prison. The decision is heart-wrenching but, being the person she is, she really has no choice.
It's been a long, long time.
You'll never know how man dreams I dreamed about you,
Or how empty they all seemed without you.
So kiss me . . .
Those first days after World War II were unbelievably wonderful. There were MEN again. After the long years in which males were either too young or too grizzly gray, it seemed a miracle to have them back. We reveled in the happy ending we'd lived for.
The euphoria didn't last long. We soon learned that our warriers had been nurturing different dreams during the years of separation. While we dreamed of having a family before Mother Nature flung the stop sign in our path, they'd dreamed of travel, adventure, art studies in Paris, music studies in New York or philosophy in Zurich. While welcoming our companionship, they wanted no encumbrance. No house, no babies, nothing that would force them to settle down to dreary dailiness.
Women were the victors in that battle, but not, alas, without subterfuge. The baby boom happened because when necessary we forgot birth control. We agonized over the question. Should we, shouldn't we? It seemed wrong to do that to the men after their long bout with war and their battle weariness. But in the end most women faced the irrevocable fact of life: the biological clock was ticking. We heard the sound, loud and clear. Men could perhaps afford to wait but we could not. Women did what they felt they had to do.
The men adapted as best they could. They settled down to those routine jobs they had dreaded, in small shops or factory assembly-lines, or they took their families to live in Quonset hut housing on University campuses where they could study on the G.I. bill and qualify for white collar work.
The women stayed home and raised children. And their happiness proved less great than their dreams had promised. They moved far from parents and siblings; they bought houses in Levittowns where they felt isolated. One woman and four small children, alone in a kitchen day in and day out, was no fun. Visiting with neighbors for morning coffee didn't help much when neighbors tended to have little in common besides child care. Levittowns were not true communities as the old home-towns had been. People came and went. Owners sold their houses as soon as they gained equity in them. Trading up was the game of the day. One heard the assertion everywhere: We need to trade for a house with more bedrooms; there's another child on the way. Your neighbor of yesterday was not your neighbor of today. Your shared experiences were brief and soon ended.
By 1948, three years after VE Day, the strains had escalated and the divorce rate began to soar. To the alarm of the childcare experts, discontented housewives began longing for careers. To counteract this, book publishers and women's magazines like Redbook and The Ladies' Home Journal published story after story assuring readers there was no greater joy for a woman than to stay home and care for her children. A woman who wore the pants in the family was portrayed as a deeply unhappy person, guaranteed to become strident, demanding, everything a female shouldn't be. Movies were made of the many tales of career women who finally found a loving man and settled down with him for a stay-at-home life. In some films, like The Red Shoes, the girl was so driven by her longing to be a dancer that she couldn't see the men in her life; she passed them by and danced on. In the end, of course, she died because there could be no happiness for women taking the career route.
Deluged with horror stories about strong women, we were urged not to be manipulators. Books warned us of "Momism," the curse of the take-charge woman who couldn't step back and let her offspring live their own lives. If we criticized our husbands, we were castrators who damaged the male ego. Women didn't know what they could do right, with their husbands or with their children. We took hits from all directions.
Somehow, women survived those years and learned to fight back. The Women's Revolution happened. Now at last we can write the truth of our post-war stories. Rosie the Riveter didn't happily return to the kitchen. She didn't fall joyously into the arms of a male just because he opened doors for her and promised protection, nor did she rejoice in her ability to abandon her career dreams. The red shoes kept dancing her onward, and she longed to go where they took her.
There are few Rosie the Riveters still around, but their story remains a powerful one. No doubt I'm only one of many writers who've struggled to tell it. I touched on it in my book, Petoskey Stones. In my new novel, Dorothea in the Mirror, Dorothea is a few years ahead of Rosie, but her dilemma is similar, as is that of Jill, the second woman in the life of concert pianist Zoltan Szekely. Though in many ways they differ from one another, the two principal women of the book, Dorothea Granger and Jill Szekely, share the dilemma of Rosie herself.