The House on Lowell Street by Linda A. Keane

Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)

Linda Keane’s debut work of fiction has both strengths and weaknesses, but is overall a very intriguing depiction of the strike of the Kalamazoo corset workers in 1912. Mildred and her sister Harriet have been working in one factory or another for most of their lives. Currently they both work in this corset factory with superiors who expect much work for little pay. Rose is a recently widowed mother in her thirties who runs a boarding house. She and her son Don have been struggling to make ends meet ever since the death of her husband, and she fears that without an increase in income they may lose their home. Rose is momentarily distracted from these troubles when Harriet’s bout of influenza leads Mildred to tell all about their past. Rose is horrified at what the sisters have experienced, but her decision to help them may bring her more harm than good. When circumstances seem to go from bad to worse, the characters will find themselves wondering if change is worth the price. Overall, the storyline is well-constructed and accurately reflects factory working conditions during this era. However, the plot is a bit choppy at times. For instance, the story begins with a focus only on Rose and her immediate life happenings, then switches to an almost tunnel-like view of Mildred and Harriet’s lives. These choppy moments are smoothed over as the story continues, however, the reader may find it hard to keep track of who the protagonist is during the first half of the novel. This is the novel’s biggest weakness and the reason why it received an average score in this section. Additionally, the beginning of the story does not fit with the rest of the plot. In contrast, Keane’s biggest strength is that it is not just another historical romance, rather, it is a great attempt at portraying real life. Keane’s effort to portray an often overlooked period of history in a relevant way saves her novel from being commonplace.

Character Development (2 points)

Likewise, Keane’s character development shows promise for the future, but needs depth to be great. Rose’s character arc throughout the book is good because she changes in response to what life throws her way. However, the biggest flaw with her character is the unaddressed death of her husband – the event seems to have no significant impact on her life. Mildred is the best character because the realistic outcome of her rebellion against tradition ups the storyline quality. Additionally, the factory owner is, unfortunately, a strawman villian. Finally, Harriet is a bit one-dimensional, but is fine as a minor character. Overall, Keane’s first attempt at developing fictional characters is better than many in her position, and could improve over time. Therefore, Keane earns an average score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Keane earns a full point in creativity for her unique portrayal of a little-known historical event, and her creative use of real places and people to build her story. Because of this, we here at BOR think that her story could be used as the foundation for a Christian historical drama film that uses characters to drive an awareness-based plot. The characters would need depth for this to be accomplished, but it can be done. This would be a great project for a new filmmaker to start out with because the material is already there.

Wish List Rating: 5 out of 10 points