1917 Butte, Montana.
A harsh, crude, lawless historical mining town and the setting for Milana Marsenich’s debut novel, Copper Sky.
Kaly Shane and her twin sister Anne Marie were orphaned at a very young age after the Warehouse Fire of 1895 claimed the lives of their family and are sent to the Polly May – a foster home for deserted and forsaken children. As impoverished as it was, life was almost bearable for Kaly, until her tiny glimmer of light was put out on the day she was raped, and her twin was murdered.
We meet adult Kaly forced into prostitution to survive, pregnant, and tormented by a past she can neither forget, nor fully recall. Kaly makes her way around life in the small mining town, much like a lost soul would. A wanderer with no place to call home, fending for herself, and never allowing herself to invest in feeling, except for the constant burn of anger. Kaly sees no hope for a decent future and struggles between a desperate desire for the tiny new life growing inside her and giving it up in the hope that the child will have a chance at a better life.
Marika Lailich and her family have niched out a respectful life, having immigrated to Butte from Montenegro. Marika is young and willful, and just beginning to experience life. She is fiercely passionate about becoming a doctor which causes frequent fall-outs with her formidable father, who has determined that she must be married as soon as possible. Marika has no interest in marriage and continues to hold on to her independence and chase her dream.
Providence always has its way and it is no different in this copper town. Weaving its way through place and setting, fate brings Kaly and Marika together bonding the two women in friendship. Neither of them is aware of the secrets the gritty town holds for them, but as their lives become more entwined, the roots of their connection are at long last revealed.
I was impressed by author Milana Marsenich’s vividly descriptive writing and her rich, well-depicted history of life in this bleak mining town and the dangers that not only the miners faced, but the risk to the townspeople as well. Both Kaly and Marika are complex characters, suppressing a frail innocence beneath their intense emotions and actions. The diverse personalities of all the characters in Copper Sky are noteworthy, and Milana tells each of their stories with a respectful realism.
The more you read, the further you are drawn into this gripping novel. In a typically male dominated genre, the influence of its strong, female perspective has stayed with me long after I finished it.
Copper Sky is beautifully written with a unique, expressive style, and I highly recommend it.
I look forward to reading more from Milana Marsenich.