Barbara J. Taylor has created another suspenseful page-turner. We first met the Morgan sisters two years ago in Taylor’s debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night. All Waiting Is Long tells us their captivating story twenty years later in the 1930s. It is a historical novel that begins when 25-year-old Violet and her pregnant sister, 16-year-old Lily, leave Scranton, Pennsylvania, by train. They are moving to Philadelphia to live at the Good Shepherd Infant Asylum until after the birth of Lily’s baby. The baby has to be delivered in secrecy to protect Lily’s reputation and prospect for a good marriage. During their months at Good Shepherd, Violet serves as a caregiver in the nursery and watches the babies leave one after the other with their adoptive parents.
Violet is anxious to go home and marry her childhood sweetheart, Stanley Adamski. Stanley is finishing his last term of law school in Philadelphia. Even though they are in the same city at the same time, they might as well be on different continents. That is, until the day he sees her through a cable car window. She pretends not to see him as she hurries down a busy street.
Violet develops a warm relationship with Mother Mary Joseph, who runs the Good Shepherd and keeps a close eye on the nursery and pregnant mothers in waiting. Violet does not like or trust Dr. Peters, who delivers the babies at the asylum. She and Mother Mary are not aware of his deep interest in eugenics or his experimental sterilization of the pregnant girls immediately following the deliveries of their babies.
Lily develops a close friendship with another pregnant girl, Muriel. Their friendship is abruptly cut short when Muriel delivers a premature, deformed baby who does not survive. Muriel is kept in the recovery area for a few days, then suddenly disappears. She is gone … until she reappears later in the story.
After Lily delivers her baby and rests a week, Violet and Lily go to the train station to return to Scranton. Lily forgets something and Violet rushes back to the home for it. She stops by the nursery to say a final good bye to her infant niece, just as her adoption is being processed to the mentally ill wife of one of the Good Shepherd’s patrons. Violet silently swaddles the baby and leaves a note for Mother Mary Joseph.
Lily is angry to see Violet with the baby when she returns to the train station, blaming her sister for trying to ruin her life. Violet says she will raise the baby as her own. As Violet is holding the baby and disembarking the train in Scranton, the first person she sees is Stanley. Seeing her with a baby, he feels betrayed and refuses to acknowledge her. Violet becomes the shunned, unwed mother with no husband and a disgrace to her family.
Thus begins the layers of deception, revealing shocking details of enlightened thinking in the 1930s against the backdrop of political corruption, unions, rampant prostitution, coal mine strikes, and judgmental Christians.
But it’s Taylor’s finely honed characters and plot twists that make “All Waiting Is Long” an unforgettable novel.
“All Waiting Is Long” by Barbara J. Taylor is published by Kaylie Jones Books and will be released on July 5th.
Our reviewer, Cheryl Bazzoui, lives in Bradford. She’s a writer who uses the pen name Ann McCauley.