Elizabeth Haberlin is one of the most refreshing characters I've read about in a novel in quite some time. She's a strong-willed, determined young woman who brings Mary Hogan's entire novel, The Woman in the Photo, into focus. And, her story brings The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to life.
Hogan's novel is the parallel story of two young women, both on the verge of adulthood. In May of 1889, Elizabeth Haberlin is the trying daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Stafford Haberlin. Elizabeth's father is the doctor to the elite of Pittsburgh, the Fricks, Andrew Carnegie, the Mellons. When they move from Pittsburgh to their summer "camp", The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club above Johnstown, the Haberlins move with them. But, the year Elizabeth is to make her debut, she, her mother, and brother arrive a little early. There's a British family arriving, and all of the elite are hoping to make a connection.
In present-day California, Lee Parker and her mother are living in the pool house at the estate where her mother works as a maid. All of Lee's dreams of college at Columbia disappeared when her father lost her funds to Wall Street, and then he himself disappeared. But, she does have one bright spot in her life. She's turning eighteen, and, although she was adopted in a closed adoption, there is a document she can see for health reasons. The paper isn't as exciting as the photo she's not supposed to see, that of a tall, dark-haired woman who resembles Lee, standing beside Clara Barton.
While Elizabeth's story is told in first person, as she lives it, a wealthy young woman whose summer home is above the dam at Johnstown, Lee's is told in third person. Somehow, it works. It's Elizabeth's story that is the powerful link to Lee's own life and history. And, it's Elizabeth, a witness to the Johnstown Flood, who is the vital linchpin. Lee's research; her search for answers, will lead her to Elizabeth Haberlin.
The Woman in the Photo is a gripping story. Hogan's storyline might sound as if it's the story of two young women searching for a purpose in life. It's so much more, including the story of Clara Barton, and her own search for a purpose. Hogan successfully links all those women in an absorbing novel.
Mary Hogan's website is www.maryhogan.com
The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan. William Morrow. 2016. ISBN 9780062386939 (paperback), 432p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to participate in a book tour.