Lee was adopted eighteen years ago and the only thing she and her family knew about her biological mother was that she'd drowned. But a letter claiming new genetic information available to her on her eighteenth birthday is the promise of discovery and the chance to finally learn more.
The information, a genetic heritage and a photo, is enough of a starting point for Lee. It's a search that will lead her to her great, great, great grandmother and a legacy that's tied to one of history's biggest disasters.
I love that Mary Hogan refers to The Woman in the Photo as "Downton Abbey meets Titanic!" If that's not enough enticement for any historical fiction fan, I don't know what is. I didn't realize, though, in starting The Woman in the Photo that it was indeed based on a very real event: the 1889 flooding of Johnstown, which is the focal point of just one of the two story lines of The Woman in the Photo.
Chapters alternate between socialite Elizabeth Haberlin, her family's trip to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, and the eventual flood and Lee's present day search for her biological history. The two of them couldn't live in more different circumstances: Elizabeth - a doctor's daughter - is almost stifled by wealth, privilege, and connections while Lee's family has lost everything in a risky investment scheme, leaving her and her mother residing in a moldy pool house as live-in help. And yet, in spite of the social differences and the years that separate them, Elizabeth and Lee (also an Elizabeth) are linked by a genetic heritage that's as strong as ever.
As is sometimes the case with multiple narrators, I did find myself more drawn to one than the other (Elizabeth rather than Lee). As a result, I spent much of Lee's story anxious to return to Elizabeth's. Part of this is definitely due to my own curiosity about the flood and I did love the way Hogan weaved that into the tale. Research into the event was obviously of large focus to Hogan and I think that paid off in spades, making that part of the story in particular both fascinating and richly detailed.
To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.
For more on May Hogan and her work you can visit website here. You can also follow her on Twitter.
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