My sister suggested that I read The Seamstress of New Orleans by Diane C. McPhail. When I picked up the book, I was immediately drawn into the story., so much so that I could not stop reading. Taking a brief break to cook and eat dinner, I finished the book in one day!
The story takes place in 1900 focusing on two recent widows, Alice Butterworth and Constance Halstead. When the story opens, we meet Constance who lives in New Orleans in comfort with her husband Benton and two young daughters along with a loyal servant Analee. Alice’s story begins on a farm in an unnamed prairie state, but her mother sends Alice to Chicago to seek a new life for herself since Alice’s two brothers will inherit the family farm, leaving Alice only to find a husband if she remains. Luckily, Alice’s mother has taught Alice how to sew. In fact, the two women are quite talented artists as seamstresses. This talent will take Alice to Chicago and later to New Orleans, giving her a lifeline.
Working in a tailor shop in Chicago, Alice meets Howard Butterworth who comes to the shop to have a skirt altered for his mother who lives in Memphis. Howard is taken with Alice and asks her to have dinner with him. At first, she refuses, but then she decides to go. They have a brief courtship and marry. Howard is secretive and tells Alice he travels between Memphis and Chicago for his work in the cotton industry. He is often gone for days at a time. Then one day, he simply does not return.
The story returns to Constance and her family in New Orleans; her husband Benton also travels for his work in the cotton industry, but between New Orleans and Chicago. The marriage, like Alice’s marriage to Howard, is fraught with problems because Benton has a gambling problem. Readers also receive hints of a more secretive nature in Benton.
How do Alice and Constance meet and what connection do they have? The story unfolds with precision as the two women’s worlds collide. Alice, hunting for Howard, heads to Memphis only to learn that the address he had mentioned for his mother is really an area of gambling dens and prostitution, so she returns to the train and goes to New Orleans, looking to escape Chicago’s cold winters and find a new life.
Alice’s talent as a seamstress earns her a job at an orphanage in New Orleans. As it happens, Constance is a volunteer who helps raise money for the orphanage. Read The Seamstress of New Orleans to see how Alice and Constance, two women from quite different worlds, end up as friends, really sisters at heart. This story will captivate readers leaving them with a satisfying and memorable ending.