The Prodigal Women: A Novel
by Nancy Hale
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Pub Date 09 May 2023 | Archive Date Not set
Ranging from posh Beacon Hill to go-go New York City to stately Virginia, a sweeping coming-of-age story of three women's lives, loves, and ambitions in the 1920s, '30s and '40s
Set in Boston, New York, and Virginia, The Prodigal Women tells the intertwined stories of three young women who come of age in the Roaring Twenties, not flappers and golden girls but flesh-and-blood female protagonists looking wearily—and warily—at the paths open to women in a rapidly changing world.
Leda March, “frantic with self-consciousness and envy and desire,” is the daughter of poorer relations of a prominent Boston family and an aspiring poet torn between an impulse to conformity and the pursuit of personal freedom. Betsy Jekyll, newly arrived with her family from Virginia, becomes Leda’s closest childhood friend, bringing a beguiling new warmth and openness into the New Englander’s life. But Betsy soon abandons Boston to land a job at a fashion magazine and enjoy life as a single woman in New York before falling in love with—and marrying—an abusive, controlling man. Betsy’s older sister, Maizie, a Southern belle idolized by the two younger friends and pursued by numerous men, grows tired of “running around” and fatefully looks for happiness in marriage to a turbulent artist.
When The Prodigal Women was published in 1942, its uncompromising portrayal of women’s shifting roles, open sexuality, and ambivalence toward motherhood made it a succèss de scandale, spending twenty-three weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Now Library of America restores Nancy Hale’s lost classic to print with a new introduction by Kate Bolick exploring how the novel measures “the gap between what liberation looks like, and what it actually is.”
Praise for WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale:
“Hale is our next Lucia Berlin. . . . In these 25 arresting stories, [she] writes about complex women who live quiet lives of confusion and desperation, locating the hugeness of human feeling with the minutiae of domestic life. Perceptive and luscious, these stories are unmissable.” —Esquire (“The Best Fall Books of 2019”)
“Every sentence pulses with energy and specificity. . . . Hale's stories are rich, delightful, and often strange. And they nearly always end abruptly, as if on an inhale, preparing you for whatever comes next.” —The Paris Review (Staff Pick)
“A stunning, crystalline collection. . . . Hale writes with a crisp realism that is almost deceptive in its simplicity; the power of her prose sneaks up on you.” —Vogue (“The 17 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Fall”)
“Skillfully introduced and selected by Lauren Groff, . . . Hale’s insightful, artfully constructed stories remain irresistible—and relevant—today.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“A welcome reintroduction. . . . Classic examples of the art of short fiction, capturing the variety of human experience with sophisticated economy.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“In a just world, Nancy Hale would need no introduction. Her name would be soaked into the American book consciousness as thoroughly as those of her contemporaries F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe." — Garden & Gun
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