A Fence Around Her

Young Adult

HISTORICAL:  It’s 1900 in Bodie, a California mining town that has seen better days. Ruth Conoboy lives with her father, head machinist at the town’s stamp mill, and her mother, who suffers because of the town’s unforgiving double standard against former whores like her. Ruth and her father are used to her mother’s emotional tantrums, but things turn for the worse when an Englishman named Tobias Mortlock comes to town. Fourteen-year old Ruth is unable to escape the shadow of her mother’s sordid past, and has been a bit of a loner since her best friend moved away a year earlier. She’s befriended by Susanna, who proves to be loyal, and admired by Robbie Van Ciel, who extracts ore from the gold mine. Robbie seems smitten until he hears about her mother's past profession. Hurt and insulted by his attitude towards her mother, Ruth shuns him.

This excellently crafted story is a vivid picture of life at the tail end of the gold rush era, when mining companies are squeezing the last dregs of ore from rock. Although brimming with historical facts about turn of the century mining towns, most of the excitement stems around Ruth’s soiled mother, Lilly, and her dramatics and obsession with the mysterious Mr. Mortlock. It’s well-written and well-researched with dialogue that sounds natural and flows well throughout. There’s not much of an ARC…no happily ever after…just an end to a tortured life and the faint promise of hope for a better future in a different place. That being said, it kept this reader turning pages and wanting to read more of it. 

Clarice Silvers