As a young girl in Michigan, Bella Colquhoun knows she’ll be a writer. It’s not easy for a woman in the 1920s to have a career of her own. She decides to never marry, but Ray promises to support her dreams. No one could have anticipated the railroad accident that would claim his life, teaching Bella things she never wanted to know about investigative journalism.
She moves to New York to attend Columbia University, but she never loses touch with the families back in Michigan, brought together by a nephew given Ray’s name. She eventually researches the family tree and decides to record the interrelated stories of extraordinary women who never quite became who they thought they would be. Across four generations, Bella traces the stories of women confronted by societal challenges as they struggle toward more than ordinary lives.
Bella’s family saga begins with European immigration to the Midwest and moves with the younger generations across 20th century America into the Pacific and even Africa. From women’s suffrage to civil rights, the Titanic to the Great Depression, these women face conflict with spouses and family members related to gender roles, childbearing, politics, and education. Yet, they find the strength to be someone, driven to rise above the challenges of a work-in-progress America.