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Come the Morning by Jeannie Burt
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Come the Morning

by Jeannie Burt

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COME THE MORNING is Jeannie Burt's third novel. I loved the first two. This one? Yup. Ditto. It's a sequel to her second one (THE SEASONS OF DOUBT), continuing the story of young Ezekiel Harrington, who, following the death of his hardworking mother in the small town of Cozad, Nebraska, arrives in Philadelphia nearly penniless, to collect his inheritance through his banker uncle. There are disagreements and misunderstandings, and 15 year-old Ezekiel begins a long, hard road towards adulthood and financial independence. It is 1883. He gets a room, finds a job in a failing stationery store, and serendipitously reconnects with his boyhood friend, Bob Cozad, now using the name Robert Henri, who is part of a growing group of ambitious young artists.

We follow Ezekiel's fluctuating fortunes for the next forty-five years. The young man displays a determination to succeed - perhaps to the detriment of his personal life - that will carry him through some very hard times. Along the way, Burt provides us with vivid descriptions of the Great White Cyclone blizzard that shut down most of the eastern seaboard, the economic hardships of the 1890s depression that left nearly half of American workers hungry and unemployed, as well as the rapidly changing art world on both sides of the Atlantic. Many secondary and peripheral characters here, like Robert Henri, are very real people, as Burt sets her story firmly in its historical context of Philadelphia and, later, Paris, from the 1880s well into the 1920s.

I compared the previous novel, with its western setting, to the writings of Cather and Mildred Walker. This one, with its urban settings - shown from the vantage points of the near destitute to the ultra-rich - brings to mind Crane's MAGGIE, Sinclair's THE JUNGLE, or the more genteel worlds of Henry James and Edith Wharton, although the Alger rags-to-riches theme is continued here too. Women's rights - which were all but non-existent in those times, and also showed up in THE SEASONS OF DOUBT - is a recurring theme too, as evidenced in this passage about unions and the economic woes of 1893 -

"Even women were causing problems. If Labor wasn't stirring up enough trouble, women's badgering and snits about their rights were making up for it. Loud, raucous women seemed to be everywhere marching and raising their fists, waving placards and screaming speeches. Could nothing ever stay as it was?"

Hmm … Sounds somehow oddly contemporary, no?

COME THE MORNING is a deeply satisfying novel of scope and depth, a book to be sampled slowly, to be savored like a fine wine or a gourmet meal. I read it a little at a time over the course of a couple of weeks, mostly because I didn't want it to end. This is a beautiful book, a throwback to an earlier time in American literature. I so hope it will be discovered and read by booklovers everywhere. Yes. I loved it.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | May 13, 2019 |
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