What a lovely book. I was drawn to Little Souls because it falls at a time when the Spanish Influenza and WWI were simultaneously taking thousands of lives. I thought a story written about this era would be fascinating. But this book is about so much more, although both of those realities of the time were drawn so personally that this novel made me cry and that says a lot about Dallas’ writing.
Sisters Helen and Lutie sold the family home in Iowa and moved to Denver after their parents died. They bought a small house with a basement apartment, occupied by the Streeters and their ten year old daughter Dorothy. Helen, a nurse, found work with women and children in poverty and when the book opens, in 1918, she is engaged to Gil, a medical student. They are both working round the clock due to the pandemic. Lutie (Lucretia) has finished art school, but could not find success as a fine artist so she works in the advertising department of a high end department store. She is fun loving and dates casually. Eventually, she surprises herself by getting serious with Peter Howell, a seminary student and son of a well to do judge.
Little Souls seamlessly and meaningfully weaves into a narrative already ripe for tragedy, number of serious themes while effectively placing the reader in 1918 Denver. By the time I finished, I found I dwelled at times on issues both serious and everyday in nature the whole time I was reading: domestic violence; ice cream sodas; the role of women in changing times; bootlegging; the rise of automobiles; child trafficking; how trash was disposed of; murder; policing; ice boxes; rape; fashion; class issues; how streets were lit; orphanages and the fact so many children were orphaned during this period; early telephones (you can picture one of those candlestick phones with the pear shaped speaker on a hook every time someone gets a call); family; yellow dog journalism; porch swings; gardens and kindness found in unexpected corners.
I listened to the audio book. The narration was above average. The narrator uses less a style that involves acting out the characters and more reading to us with minor changes for characters’ voices, if that makes sense, but very enjoyable. Highly recommend!