Book Review

A haunting photo, a poignant story

Posted 4/4/23

‘Sold on a Monday’ By Kristina McMorris

It all started with a picture. Set during the hardship years of the Depression, young reporter Ellis Reed is looking for an interesting story …

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Book Review

A haunting photo, a poignant story

Posted

‘Sold on a Monday’
By Kristina McMorris

It all started with a picture. Set during the hardship years of the Depression, young reporter Ellis Reed is looking for an interesting story or scoop. In Laurel Township, Pa., he comes across two young siblings holding onto each other on the porch of a dilapidated farmhouse.

One is eight-year-old Ruby Dillard, the other her younger brother Calvin, sitting beneath a wooden sign: “Two Children for Sale.” Struck by the poignancy of the scene with their obviously ill and desperate mother hovering in the background, he offers a few bills to photograph them.

When Ellis runs the picture with a story about hardship in the Examiner, it catches the attention of many readers who want to know who they are. Working in the same newsroom is Lily Palmer, who keeps to herself because of a secret – a small son born out of wedlock being cared for outside the city by her parents. Lily’s goal is to earn enough money to find an affordable apartment in which to raise her beloved child.

As donations pour into the newsroom for the destitute family in the photo, Ellis delivers the funds to them. Ellis has a testy relationship with his father, who detests newspeople and has little respect for what his son does for a living. While Ellis has a crush on Lily, she has also caught the eye of an older, experienced, and established journalist Clayton, hence the beginning of a love triangle.

When the mother and two kids disappear, Ellis takes it upon himself to find out where. With Lily’s assistance they visit a sanitarium where she is said to have died from TB, leaving the children to be adopted. When the pair find that the mother is very much alive, they are puzzled.

Upon investigation, they find that Ruby has been placed with a well-to-do family, but the little brother has mysteriously disappeared. They take upon themselves the responsibility of finding him, as they suspect foul play.

This is a poignant story about the desperate lengths to which the destitute will go to provide for their family. The mother’s decision was to give her children a better chance, but she could never have known that the girl was given to a mentally-ill woman who was trying to make the girl into a carbon-copy of a child she had lost, even renaming her after that lost daughter. When they locate Cal in an orphanage much like a reformatory, they stage a daring escape with him in tow.

McMorris has created a stirring plot about two reporters combining their efforts to reunite a family. In the meantime, the couple experience growing feelings for each other but hold back from expressing them. Lily will first have to overcome her shame regarding her past indiscretion, as well as sort out her feelings for the two men who love her.

Conflicts abound: the mother’s decision regarding her children; Ellis’ strained relationship with his father; the romantic feelings Lily has for two competing suitors; and her struggle to come to term with her previous decision.

A moving novel, “Sold on a Monday” was “inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation.”

Donna Bruno is a prizewinning author and poet recently recognized with four awards by National League of American Pen Women.

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