For a recent project I’ve been reading books set in Iowa, which is how I came to read this week’s novel, “The Other Anna” by Barbara Esstman. Set in the fictional town of New Marango, Iowa before World War I, Anna Berter is growing up as the pampered and protected only child of the little town’s doctor.
After the Berter family hires an old Scottish woman and her granddaughter, Edwina, to cook and clean and take care of Anna, “the Old One” fills Anna’s imagination with Celtic songs and legends. Anna begins to see beyond childhood after houseguest Hailus Tucker, the charming and handsome son of one of her mother’s childhood friends, arrives. When Hailus departs several months later Edwina is pregnant.
Anna’s parents adopt Edwina’s illegitimate child. Anna questions the identity of the child’s father; and after an illuminating dialog with a local man, comes to question not only her role in the family but also her mother’s actions and intentions. As Anna is thrust into adulthood, she comes to understand that things are often not what they seem, and that people – even people you love - do not always tell the truth or do what is right.