Set in 1931, Kathleen McMorris’s SOLD ON A MONDAY is based upon an actual photo from the depression era that swept the nation, capturing the agonizing desperation of families struggling to find jobs and provide food and shelter for their children.
When Ellis Reed, a middling newspaper reporter assigned to the Society Page, sees two children on a road with a sign that reads: Children for Sale, he snaps a photo and it leads to his big break. When the photo is ruined, Ellis attempts to recreate it. Returning to the home of the first family, he finds that they have moved, but a single mother and her young daughter and son live there and Ellis pays the mother to allow her children to pose with the sign. Instead of launching Ellis’s career, the story ends up launching him into a desperate search for two innocent children caught up in his failed attempt to make a name for himself. Lillian, a secretary at the paper with a secret of her own, has dreams of becoming a reporter like Nellie Bly, but her boss is none too eager to give her an opportunity to prove herself. Ellis and Lilly team up to find the missing children – motivated by their own family histories to right a wrong.
McMorris’s novel flags at times, and some of the backstory feels unrealistic, but as the reporters close in on a dark underworld of mobsters, unscrupulous children’s homes, and characters broken by loss, the novel becomes compulsively readable. You’ll find yourself flying through the last third of the book, as desperate as Lilly and Ellis to find the lost children. Though the novel lacks the depth of other books on the era and at times tips into resolutions that border on magical thinking, the welfare of the children kept me reading till the end.
Let me know what you think of SOLD ON A MONDAY and if you’re looking for other recommended reads from the era, check out Christina Baker Kline’s ORPHAN TRAIN, Pam Jenoff’s THE ORPHAN’S TALE, and Lisa Wingate’s BEFORE WE WERE YOURS.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews.