Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun seemed like the perfect choice for me after some intense epic fantasy and current events books. It’s historical fiction, and a whole lot lighter. But make no mistake, Stewart effortlessly blends an uplifting story about independent women in the 1910s with themes that have relevance today.
Constance Kopp and her sisters Norma and Fleurette live in the countryside of Northern New Jersey. While taking their buggy into a nearby town for the day’s errands, they’re broadsided by an automobile. The driver, Henry Kaufman, is drunk and disorderly. He’s also a person with power, because his family owns a silk mill and he runs around with a gang of goons.
Their buggy is damaged and young Fleurette is injured, so Constance presents Kaufman with a bill. Kaufman uses his power to threaten, harass, and intimidate the Kopp sisters. But the women refuse to be cowed. Constance and Norma are used to managing things themselves, although this is an uncommon attitude for their time.
Even before the heart of the story got going, I was thinking about how different life was for women a century ago. Living without a man in the house was mostly unheard of, although the Kopp sisters do have a brother living fairly near them. Standing up for yourself when a man makes a self-centered decision was rare. Never mind the lack of insurance companies.
As the threats escalate, the Kopp sisters gain the help of the local sheriff and his deputies. Constance has a natural presence, given her height. She’s been through adversity and is naturally curious. So she uncovers more than meets the eye as she attempts to get restitution for her family. I promise that Stewart will have you cheering for her in no time!
Even though Girl Waits With Gun was written a few years ago, it hit plenty of buttons for me based on current events. As with many historical fiction books, it’s a reminder that attitudes change slowly. For example, not a day goes by that we don’t see news about women being harassed. Right now, the idea that one person can terrorize another (or group of others) is certainly top of mind. Stewart reminds us that there’s plenty of precedent for this heinous behavior.
She also discusses the impact of the press on the Kopp’s case. Just as it will today, getting the press involved can convince government officials not to sweep an important case under the rug. Sheriff Heath is media savvy and a great foil for Constance, as is Norma. And their differing opinions about the press are both funny and prescient.
I listened to the audiobook, expertly narrated by Christina Moore. Despite my serious interpretations here, this is a high energy escapade that I sped through. Stewart creates fully drawn characters and plenty of dramatic tension. I’ve already started the second book in the series!