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Girl Waits with Gun

by Amy Stewart

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart X
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2015, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2016, 448 pages

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VtKat

Headline Philadelphia Sun--Girl Waits With Gun
Although the blurb by Elizabeth Gilbert calls this " a smart, romping, hilarious novel", I will agree with the smart. At times it hardly romps though it does move relatively fast and only once did I laugh loudly and long; toward the end of the book.

Despite the, in my opinion, misleading endorsement on the front cover, directly above the lovely illustrated heroine, the story is well done and interesting. Based on the true story of a dye manufacturer's spoiled son and his careless collision of his automobile with the horse drawn carriage of the Kopp sisters on the streets of Patterson, NJ in 1913, it is an old-fashioned crime story using the newspaper accounts, letters and trial transcripts of the event.

Since this plot would be rather thin and could be covered in far less than the 400 pages of the novel, Amy Stewart, the author has invented a secondary plot of a factory girl, taken advantage of by the aforementioned spoiled son, whose name by the way is Henry Kaufman. Lucy Blake gave birth to the child and kept him but when the dye workers went on strike she had to give him up temporarily to others and when the strike was broken the child had disappeared.

Constance Kopp, as the eldest of the three Kopp sisters takes it upon herself to write to Kaufman asking for the $ 50 dollars that it cost to have their carriage repaired. Kaufman ignores the letter and so Constance takes other measures, which leads to harassment by Kaufman and his unsavory cohorts. Against the better judgement of Norma, the second Kopp sister, Constance engages the help of the local sheriff, Bob Heath.

She also encounters Lucy Blake and becomes obsessed with finding Lucy's child, since she believes Kaufman and his sister, Murial Goldfarb are somehow responsible for the child's disappearance. Heath cannot help in the search because not only won't Lucy speak to him, but once her tenement is burned down she has disappeared, too.brbrThe adventuresome and headstrong Constance makes forays into New York and meets a photographer who now works on police and private investigations. In the meantime, Norma, who is content to remain on their farm and work with her pigeons and avoid all involvement with the outside world is less than encouraging. The third sister, Fleurette, is a precocious 17 year old with a vivid imagination who is thrilled at all the activity and treats it as a great adventure.

All of the characters are very well developed, although I'm not sure about the relationship between Sheriff Heath and Constance. We find midway through the book that he is married but there are strange undercurrents in their interactions. Particularly amusing is James Ward, the family lawyer for the Kaufman family, although he is a minor character who only appears twice in the story--once almost without making an impression.

The time period is nicely depicted and I love the use of words that my Mom used to use and which I haven't heard in years and years, such as chiffonier.

All in all, not the run of the mill mystery--and certainly a fun read. This was a complimentary copy from BookBrowse in return for my participation in a readers' discussion that begins on May 10.
Patricia G. (Dyer, IN)

This Girl Means Business
Miss Constance Kopp is no shrinking violet. In an era (1914) when women were supposed to be docile, domestic, and dependent on men, Ms. Kopp stands out literally and figuratively as anything but. Not only does she stand a head taller than most of the male characters in Amy Stewart's book, she also weathers a difficult, atypical lifestyle: an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a sometimes violent vendetta with a local "Black Hand" gang led by her nemesis, Henry Kaufman, and a collaboration with Sheriff Heath to help put the gang's leaders behind bars. When in the epilogue I learned that the story was based on real people and situations, Constance became even more of a stand-out feminine icon of her time.

Stewart uses several primary sources to validate the original story but deftly adds her own touches to create living, breathing characters. For example, Constance's sister Norma is also strong-willed and capable; she handles a pistol as well as experimenting with her flock of carrier pigeons. Fleurette, the youngest, is creative and artistic hoping to find her way somehow to the stage; we learn as the story unfolds that she really is Constance's daughter, a secret known only to the family and never revealed to Fleurette. The moral stance of the time forces Constance to assume this difficult dual role, and the reader sees her struggling at times to keep her emotions under control when Fleurette is in danger.

Stewart provides us with an inside view of a turbulent time by giving us strong, well-developed characters based on real-life women making their way in a male-dominated society.
Patricia L. (Seward, AK)

Stand Against the Man
Early twentieth century was not a welcome place for women on their own. Not having "a man" meant no protection from other men and the numerous dangers, either real or perceived that could be encountered. Constance and her two sisters were heading to town in their horse drawn buggy when they are unceremoniously hit by an automobile. Unfortunately the driver is a rich, unhinged ne'er do well who refuses to compensate them for the damage. And when provoked by Constance's insistence that he do so, he decides they are easy targets for he and his friends harassment. The story is based on newspaper accounts of real life happenings. Amy Stewart embellishes some but uses clippings about the actual incident and others from the time period in ingenious ways. While reading this gently paced account one has the feeling that the author is building a foundation for future adventures of Constance and her sisters. If as entertaining as Girl Waits With Gun they are sure to be a hit. Recommended for easy entertaining reading in any weather.
Carolyn D. (Chico, CA)

You Go Girl!
I was interested in the book because of the true story that inspired the author. It was a very slow start for me but really picked up speed about 80 pages into it. I liked the style of the writing and the other sisters grew on me. I loved Constance from the start. Turned out to be a good and fun read, so don't be discouraged if it starts slow for you -- pays off in the end.
Jean G. (Rockford, IL)

NRA would approve
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of historical fiction that covered the eras from the 1890's to the 1920's in America. It captured the day to day lives of 3 sisters in that period accurately if my memory of history class doesn't fail me. The characters are likable and well developed as is the plot. A few good surprises along the way. A very entertaining way to revisit history. The last part dragged somewhat as I felt I knew the outcome before reaching the end but the sisters grew in depth and kept the interest up. A big plus for me was to find out the book is based on a true story. A light-hearted, fun read for book clubs.
Carol N. (San Jose, CA)

A Strong willed woman...
Really fun summer read! Based upon historical fact, 1914, Hackensack, New Jersey, a story of the first woman deputy sheriff in this country. What happens to the three Kopp sisters when a motorcar owned by the town's bad boy hits their carriage? Life begins to be not so normal for these sisters. Since it was the time in our country when a women's place was in the home, the Kopp ladies are indeed an anomaly. Constance is a strong-willed, imposing woman who is ready to take on obstacles lesser ladies would not tackle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this smart adventure and hopefully it is only the beginning of a series by this author. My only negative comment is ... the book is notably missing any romance; I'd love to see what happens in the future.
Dona H. (Muskegon, MI)

Worth reading
Girl Waits with Gun is an original and amusing look at the lives of unmarried females in the early 1900's through three young sisters trying to make a go of it on a little farm without much income or male help. Constance, the narrator, is an unusually plucky and daring woman with the strength and size of a man. The conflicts with a local bad man and his gang seem a bit unbelievable, but are based on actual news stories of the time. Although a bit dragged out in places, worth reading for a view of what our female ancestors had to endure.
Mary Ann B. (Louisville, KY)

Girl gets a life
Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart is a quick enjoyable read. Ms Stewart takes real people, Constance Kopp, and sisters, and creates a tale about women taking control of their lives in the early 20th century. Constance seems to be moving through life, when a chance encounter with a sociopath, changes its course. All of the characters have distinct personalities, and seem true to life. I would recommend this book to people who like historical fiction, and a mystery.

Beyond the Book:
  The Real-Life Kopp Sisters

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