The sins of the mother…
In the steel town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous 1948 “killing smog,” headstrong nurse Rose Pavlesic tends to her family and neighbors. Controlling and demanding, she’s created a life that reflects everything she missed growing up as an orphan. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her loving husband, dutiful children, and large extended family.
When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as gray as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harboring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family—and the whole town—splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin? For every woman who thinks she left her past behind...
Set in the steel town of Donora, Pa., Shoop's second novel follows hard-drinking, foul-mouthed community nurse Rose Pavlesic as she struggles to maintain control over her family and life. Raised in a "wretched orphanage," Rose compensates for her unfortunate upbringing by excelling as a nurse and encouraging her teenage twins to attend college and escape the mill town. Everything begins to disintegrate, though, when she finds out both children have different plans and her husband loses his job at the mill. Rose's own career is at risk when the new mill superintendent's wife, Mrs. Sebastian, is reluctant to fund the town health clinic. Through her attempts to persuade Mrs. Sebastian by treating her asthmatic daughter, Rose is forced to confront a secret from her own past. Rose's personal drama unfolds as a "killing smog" descends on Donora, forcing her to care for dozens of suffocating townsfolk. As one surprise follows another, each begins to lose its shock value and the novel descends into melodrama. The unexplained smog, an actual event that killed 20 Donora residents and sickened thousands, becomes an afterthought in the background of Rose's family conflicts. Despite its potential, too many twists and subplots crowd the novel, leaving it feeling unfocused.