The majority of the book spans three years in Katy's life. She's deeply affected by the 1911 garment factory fire in New York where girls jumped to flaming deaths and when WWI begins, she longs to be a doctor to heal the wounded. Closer to home, she's disturbed by a visit with her father to the local asylum and tries to understand when he tells her he can only help the patients' bodies but some day he hopes there will be cures for the minds. Her compassion for Jacob grows as she sees how others view him. When Jacob unwittingly commits an unthinkable act, Katy alone deciphers his reasoning.
Lowry accents each chapter with old, sepia-tinted photos from the early twentieth century. In the book's acknowledgments she writes, "All of the people in these photographs are real people. Some of them were people I knew and loved. One is my own mother." She goes on to say that she found some of the photos in an antique store and wondered about them. I have read several of Lowry's many books, including her Newberry winners, Number the Stars and The Giver. She continues to amaze me with her creative dexterity and commitment to children's literature. Visit her site here; you'll see what I mean. I heard Lowry speak and read at a local book shop a couple years ago. She's a charming reader and equally engaging speaker. If you have the opportunity, get out to see her while she's still touring.