A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the story behind the picture is worth a thousand more . . .
“2 children for sale”
So reads the sign on a farmhouse porch in 1931. It has been placed next to the young brother and sister seated there. It is a last resort.
The reporter who happens upon it, Ellis Reed, is so taken by it that he snaps a photo to memorialize what he has seen. He never intends for the photo to be published.
However, through the intervention of his well-meaning colleague, Lily Palmer, the photo is published. The sensational newspaper story accompanying it and public interest in the story provide Ellis the big break that he has been hoping for. He moves up in the world of journalism, but cannot forget the children he saw that day or their mother, who turned away from the camera. America is in the throes of the Great Depression. The stock market crash of 1929 brought runs on banks, unemployment, suicides, and desperation to a once-prosperous nation. Ellis is haunted both by his own past and the way in which he was rejected by his own father, as well as what the publication of his photo may have done to an innocent family.
Lily bears her own guilt about the role she played in what transpired. She contends with her own past — the choices she made, the secrets she keeps. It falls to her and Ellis to learn what happened to the children in that photo — and whether she and Ellis have the strength of character and resilience to do what is right for them.
Kristina McMorris is the acclaimed author of Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, The Pieces We Keep, and The Edge of Lost. She never fails to deliver emotionally gripping, thought-provoking stories based upon actual historical events.
Her latest book, Sold on a Monday, was inspired by her discovery of a photo that appeared in a newspaper in 1948 depicting a mother and her four children next to a sign that read “4 children for sale; inquire within.”
That photo inspired McMorris, herself a mother, to ponder just how desperate a woman would have to be in order to offer her children up for sale. When she posed the question to one of her friends, the response was simple: “Because they wanted to eat.” McMorris began researching the photo and learned that some family members accused the mother of staging it for money. That inspired the premise of Sold on a Monday: “Specifically, what if a reporter’s seemingly harmless choice to stage a photo led to unintended consequences for everyone involved?” The children in the real photo were, in fact, sold. They were used as forced labor and abused by their new owners. In an effort to “give the children in the photo the loving and compassionate outcome” she felt they deserved, McMorris dedicated Sold on a Monday to them.
From the very first page, McMorris deftly transports readers back to the grim realities of Depression-era America. Employing her signature style, she utilizes events and the circumstances in which her characters find themselves to challenge readers to ponder what they would do if presented with similar obstacles. Sold on a Monday is nothing less than a morality play about choices made, the consequences thereof, and the human need for redemption. McMorris is masterful at breaking readers’ hearts and Sold on a Monday is no exception. However, she is also adept at crafting moral dilemmas that test the fiber of her characters, who often rise to the occasion and prove themselves worthy of the emotional investment McMorris compels readers to make in them.
Ellis and Lily are determined to learn the fate of the children in the photo. Their quest leads them into danger as they face members of society who are profiting from the Depression and wield power the likes of which neither Ellis nor Lily can claim. They are appalled when they learn the truth about what the children have been told, where they have been placed, and the what the future holds for them if Ellis and Lily fail to intervene.
Through the lens of her mind, she suddenly viewed the past year with stunning clarity, saw the interwoven paths that had delivered each of them here. Every step a domino vital in knocking over the next. With no small bit of regret, she nodded at him slowly, remembering as she replied, “It started with a picture.”
In Sold on a Monday, McMorris takes readers on a journey from despair to forgiveness and new beginnings. It has rightly been called “a masterpiece” and “stunningly moving” by critics. The praise is deserved. McMorris again delivers a poignant, emotionally satisfying story that will resonate and remain with readers long after they finish reading the last page.