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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
At the End of the Line is a historical novel written by Kathryn Longino. It's also a coming of age story set in the 1950s and 1960s, featuring Beanie, a young Mormon girl who is forced to marry an older Church Elder at the age of fifteen. She's treated harshly by her husband and her two sister-wives and hatches a plan to escape. Her dreams are kept alive by her long-distance friendship with Adeline, a Boston woman who Beanie contacted by mistake. Adeline's attempt to wire sufficient funds for Beanie to leave her husband and travel to Boston is thwarted when the Western Union Official phones Beanie's husband to warn him of her flight plans. Her life goes from bad to worse until finally, when her most recent letter to Adeline is discovered lying on her husband's desk, Beanie flees in the night with a small amount of cash. She ends up in Chicago where her life changes dramatically.
Kathryn Longino's historical coming of age novel is spellbinding storytelling. Through her characters, the reader gets to experience the Civil Rights Movement from its infancy through to the March on Washington. There are several story-lines woven throughout the book: the story of Adeline, who's torn between her married life and life with her lover, the 1940s tale of Hattie Dean, a young African-American girl who's raped and impregnated as a young teen, and that of Beanie, Mormon child, jazz pianist and a brave and passionate advocate for civil rights. Beanie's story is so heart-wrenching at first, and her transformation into an accomplished and fearless young woman is one of the most compelling coming of age stories I've read. At the End of the Line is stark and stunning and rich with history. It's a remarkable book and one I highly recommend.