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A Roaring Twenties and Great Depression coming of age story that follows one young woman and her family as she finds her way into a deadly world of speakeasies and unsavory characters.

 

The infant girl lay swaddled on her grandma’s boney knees. She saw flickers of light; heard vibrating notes; smelled the roomful of flowers. Her little heart beat faster as she felt her first twinge of joy. The world seemed fascinating.

No one saw her first smile. The room of relatives was too overwhelmed with the death of her mother and the question of who would care for her two children? Their father was a traveling salesman so he was of no use. Two year old Doris stood alone crying by her mother’s casket and no one rose to comfort her. Mimi lay like a bundle on her grandma’s knees but no arms cuddled her.

The economic turmoil of 1919 kept the family members seated in their chairs. Their country was now in the war and an extra mouth to feed could threaten their family survival. They waited to see who would breakdown and claim the children. No one did.

Once the organ stopped and the outsiders left the room, the relatives whispered accusations, suggestions and finally an awkward agreement. Everyone would take a turn caring for the children but only one child at a time. Someone took Doris’ hand and led her away. Grandma Loretta stood up and walked in a different direction with tiny Mimi. It would take twelve years and an act of defiance on Mimi’s part before the two sisters would live under the same roof.

Now vagabond wards of the extended family, the separated sisters are passed from family to family and Mimi develops her own unique blend of survival skills, personality quirks, and thirst for adventure. After a close call with a band of gypsies reunites her with her sister some twelve years later in Boston, they revel in their search for whatever excitement the world has to offer.

After Mimi and Doris spend their pre-teen and teenage years taking care of the children of their father and selfish stepmother, Mimi goes out into the world as a switchboard operator before diving into the competitive world of 1930’s fashion. But her sense of adventure and naiveté prove to be a dangerous combination and she is drawn into a deadly world of Depression-era speakeasies and gangsters. Making the wrong decisions and finding herself more deeply involved than she ever intended, she decides to make a permanent change. Leaving the life behind isn’t that easy, however, and it will take friendship—and love—from a surprising source to help her find the happiness she has been searching for forever.

The story of a strong, resilient woman ahead of her time, Pamela Bender’s first installment of the Dennison family trilogy is a surprising, heartfelt, and absorbing saga. Capturing the nuances and emotional landscape of her heroine with extraordinary depth and sincerity, she weaves together the dark and light of life as it explores a time and place unique in the collective American psyche. Uninhibited romanticism at its finest, Until There Was Us reminds us all that life is what you make it.

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