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For women like me, who came to maturity before the 1960s, the specter of illegal and unsafe abortion is as much of a horror as the reaction of those who view a terminated pregnancy as murder. In those days there was no “pill” and the only means of obtaining a contraceptive device was through a doctor—with the exception of condoms.
Virgin Hall ($15 paper / $7.99 epub, Kindle & Nook) is a book about four women coming of age in the 1950s. The book is divided into three parts. The first part introduces the reader not only to the characters, but to the times. Clothes, sorority rush, boys, and a great date were all priorities for “co-eds” of the day. Sheila, the heroine, a sheltered girl from Brooklyn, is lost at first in the flamboyant culture of the Southwest. As her three suitemates help her adjust, the women establish lifelong friendships.
The second part of the novel reveals the very real life situation Sheila faces. She is an incest victim and experiences a pregnancy from a rape, even as the pace of campus life goes on around her. Shelia is helped through her trauma by the other women and by the young man she considers her true love.
Part three takes place thirty years later, at an impromptu reunion of the four college suitemates. They have all undergone changes in the intervening years, and answers to many questions raised in the first two parts come to light as they catch up on one another’s lives. America and the three women changed profoundly in the intervening years—all of them know that for every gain they made, a price was paid.