AT THE END OF THE LINE by Kathryn Longino

At the end of the lineThis was an interesting story of two women living in different parts of the country,  how they connect, and the civil rights movement,  spanning the years from 1958 through 1972.  (or thereabouts.  I kind of forget exactly.)

Adeline Stewart Garrison, Liddie to her friends, who married well, knows Joe Kennedy and the like, and lives in Boston, bored and disenchanted with her life.

Beatrice Mae Eddleston,  known as Beanie, at age 15 is forced by her Mormon parents to be the third wife of a much older man,  an Elder in the church in their town in Utah.   The despotic husband makes her give up her piano lessons because the teacher was allowing her to play jazz.  The teacher moves and gives Beanie her phone number on a music sheet, but the husband tears it up into little pieces.

After being abused for her miscarriages by the husband, (the abuse abetted by the sister wives trying to make their own lot easier), while cleaning, Beanie finds a shard of that phone number, missing two numbers.  She is determined to contact her teacher for help by calling variations of the number,  and by accident connects with Adeline, who sends her money via Western Union so Beanie can leave her abusive situation and go to Boston for a fresh start.  The husband discovers this, and she is unable to leave, practically held prisoner.  Through letters and phone calls, she remains in contact with Adeline, and they develop a long-distance friendship that continues for several decades.

Beanie finally escapes, gets a bus to Chicago which is as far as her money will take her, and serendipitously finds a job playing jazz piano in a bar, and a cheap apartment over the bar.  Through the Black musicians she performs with, she learns of the civil rights movement, and the rest of the book is the story of the two women’s disparate lives, and how they finally meet.

Kathryn Dionne and Abby L. Vandiver cowrote the book under the pen name Kathryn Longino, which would account for its sometimes choppy flow, and the occasional clearly different writing styles.  However, this does not seriously interfere with an excellent story about two women and of the country itself during those turbulent times.   There are characters to love, characters to feel sorry for, and for those of us old enough to have lived through those times, lots of …. well, I wouldn’t call it nostalgia, because Buddha knows those were sad years with the assassinations of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and the disgraceful deaths of many civil rights workers, like Medgar Evers and  James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner.

As a side note, polygamy has been illegal in the US, but was practiced anyway in defiance of the law.  In fact, it is still practiced to this day in various states in the Western US.

(Cripanoony, I lived through the events in this book.  I can’t believe I am that old.  That was like forty years ago.  And here I am only 37.)




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