How much tension can a marriage sustain before it snaps? In the early 1900s, Bram and Brigetta de Boer test the limits. An irreversible decision forces them to re-examine their vows and their future.
The marriage that begins in Dutchville, Iowa, faces rough terrain that isn't left behind despite a move to Rochester, Minnesota. Hired as the Steward (chief farmer) for the Rochester State Hospital from the 1920s-1940, Bram realizes that he and Brigetta must ask tough questions and find solid answers if their marriage is to survive.
In 1919, young Cornelis de Boer balanced on the unguarded edge of temptation and made a hauntingly bad decision. His brother Bram's resulting wrath forced Cornelis to flee his home and family, leaving a swath of fears, pain and unanswerable questions behind him.
Then in 1929, Cornelis returns home and escorts his two daughters to the threshold of the one-room schoolhouse where Lena Stryker is teacher.
. . . Lena: the one Cornelis first saw from the darkness of the closet where he had compromised Brigetta--Bram's wife and Lena's niece
. . . Lena: the person in whose hands Cornelis' and his daughters' futures rest
. . . Lena: the woman whose ten-year silence places her on the unguarded edge of her own frightening dilemma
. . . Lena: whose heart cries out to know When a wayward son returns home, must all be forgotten--can all be forgiven?
Sanna de Boer isn't the first 18-year-old to choose a career based on how far away it will take her from heartbreak. She chooses to train for the US Cadet Nurse Corps at the Kahler School of Nursing because Rochester, Minnesota, is a long way from Dutchville, Iowa, and because she has many fond memories of growing up as the daughter of the Rochester State Hospital's Steward.
But Rochester doesn't come with such fond memories for Sanna's parents. The day Sanna returned home with joyful news of her acceptance was the day Bram and Brigetta de Boer realized the seeds they thought were still buried in secret from over a quarter of a century earlier had produced a late harvest of truth--truth no one could ignore.
Muriel Dykstra discarded her friendship with Sanna de Boer like an old shoe when she concocted a life-changing, self-centered plot that gave her what she wanted: Derek VanHousen. The fact that Sanna and Derek were all but publicly engaged didn't deter Muriel. Blindly, she plunged into the deep and murky waters of self-gratification, latching on to everything but what she should have deemed more important than an ill-gotten husband: a clean conscience and peace of mind.
Now, it is 1964 and Sanna is coming back to live in Dutchville. Muriel has a tough row ahead if she's going to make what she knows to be fiction—a happy VanHousen marriage—seem real enough to fool Sanna. Unfortunately, this effort to revive a dying marriage must be accomplished in record time.
As if that weren't enough, the two VanHousen girls, Laura (who is a member of the 1964 Tulip Festival's Queen's Court) and Chloe (one year younger, chronologically, but years older in her schemes) have issues Muriel is too self-absorbed to investigate until it is too late. There is hardly a festival in local memory when a pretty young gal wipes tears away as she rides the Queen's float, or sobs through the evening musical in which her sister plays a role.
Sometimes you just can't escape shadows, even shifting shadows . . .
Welcome to Dutchville's Wedding-of-the-Decade!
The church is packed; the music's playing; the bride is nervous, but her groom is calm. As eager as all are to see this wedding unfurl, hardly anyone's paying attention . . . that is, until a startling pronouncement rocks this already unusual ceremony.
But it's a letter furtively delivered at the reception that will keep gossip humming all around Dutchville in the Summer of '65.