The feminine spirit of the West comes alive in early twentieth century Montana.
Set in the Copper Camp of Butte, Montana in 1917, Copper Sky tells the story of two women with opposite lives. Kaly Shane, mired in prostitution, struggles to find a safe home for her unborn child, while Marika Lailich, a Slavic immigrant, dodges a pre-arranged marriage to become a doctor. As their paths cross, and they become unlikely friends, neither knows the family secret that ties them together.
Dark pasts hidden in layers of grief and torture burst through the seams in the mining town, Butte. Kaly, a prostitute in a time where getting arrested by the authorities became the norm, finds herself pregnant. Marika, a girl from a well off family, is forced to marry a stranger but wishes for an independent life learning medicine.
While Marika’s struggle for equality cannot be undermined, Kaly’s story definitely felt more troublesome and upsetting. Her sisters death; a life with no other family and a destructive career path lead to her considering taking her own life. It’s incredibly harrowing to see how her story unfolds and how she chooses to overcome her troubled past.
Marika has an easier life, but she battles with her father in an attempt to follow her dreams. It’s her father’s traditional values about arranged marriage that drive her to go behind his back to learn medicine. It’s clear she feels terrible guilt from defying his rules but knows it’s important to show her independence in a man’s world.
The secret they share – no spoilers – is an interesting twist. I thought I had it figured out by page 260 but it turned out I was only close to the truth. In saying this, I didn’t feel the book was predictable. It took me a few chapters to start really enjoying it but once I was wrapped up in the characters, that was it.
More tragedy unfolds the more characters that are introduced. Finding out the truth behind the sex workers in Butte I found heartbreaking. Their options are limited from traumatic pasts and lack of decent jobs in the area. There’s violence, murder and drugs involved every time the sex workers are mentioned. It’s often difficult to read, but it’s an incredibly raw and honest depiction of how it was in the early 20th century. Kaly’s friends are taken by the authorities in a desperate attempt to rid the town of prostitution. They are treat like objects, not people.
I’d highly recommend reading this book as it’s very well-written and is a gripping read. I’d give this a 4.5/5.