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Mary Hopkins Moore
The Watsons of Tethertown
The Watsons of Tethertown follows the life of Joel Watson and his family in a small Missouri town from 1886 to 1919. Joel’s adult life begins on the night he flees his family farm and finds refuge with a neighbor who saves him from almost certain hanging. He meets and woos the beautiful Belle Hughes and eventually finds his way back to his family’s farm. As husband and wife, Joel and Belle find passion, joy, and sorrow, surviving drought, catastrophic winter weather, and heartbreaking losses which only seem to bring them closer together. \tThe saga continues through the eyes of their oldest daughter Laura. She finds the love of her life, Walter. They marry but struggle to become pregnant, which breaks Laura’s heart. Then the Great War comes, and Walter is shipped off to France. Tragedy strikes Walter in France. While Laura waits for news, the Spanish flu strikes. Meanwhile Joel’s sister-in-law Beatrice has fallen in love – but with a woman. Will her family be willing to accept her love for this woman or turn their backs on her? Will Walter return home from the war? Will all the family members survive the Spanish flu? And what can Beatrice hope for? Somehow, Joel and his family must find a way to survive. But will they ever find happiness again? Fun, sensual, and historically accurate, this novel is a window into the texture of everyday life more than 130 years ago.
This heartfelt, multigenerational story draws readers into the summer of 1886 in the quaint Tethertown, Missouri, where young cattle farmer Joel Watson falls in love with the well-off Belle Hughes. After losing his father in an accident one winter day, Joel’s mother Anna remarries Bill, a "kind and polite" man, only to find out their marriage is a sham and Bill has an ulterior motive: to steal the rights to the farm, Joel’s father's legacy, so that his own son, Billy, can inherit it instead. The situation drives Joel to contemplate risky solutions, while complicating his blossoming romance with Belle.

Moore's debut stands out for its historical authenticity, with charming descriptions of spring dances and sweet rendezvous after Sunday church, where it remains the custom for parents to approve—or disapprove—their daughter's marital choices, often favoring financially stable men. That spells trouble for Joel, but he remains unfazed, and Moore paints him as an admirable character who readers will find endearing. More than a decade later, as Joel’s story progresses, he finds Walter, his daughter Laura's suitor, in the same dire situation as he was when young, and his sister-in-law Beatrice is in love with a woman. Joel makes sure the passionate love he shares with his wife becomes their legacy, teaching a generation its ability to endure epidemics, winter storms, wars, and profound grief.

Despite the loosely tied plot and the absence of a traditional climax, Moore deftly uses subplots and a sprawling narrative to portray the ideal dynamics of marriage—contrasting Joel and Belle and their children's happy marriages to the violence Anna suffers at the hands of Bill. A novel powered by passion and sensuality, with brisk storytelling of domestic violence, trauma, and queerness, readers will appreciate the message that "love is good, no matter who it is for."

Takeaway: Story of generational love surviving war, calamites, and societal differences.

Comparable Titles: Adriana Trigiani's The Shoemaker's Wife, Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Amazon editorial review

5.0 out of 5 stars    Multi-generational Saga of Frontier Hope & Struggle
"A moving portrait of life in rural Missouri from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries. At times, enchanting and at others, tragic. I couldn't put it down!"
---Jonathan Cullen, Amazon bestselling author of The Storm Beyond the Tides and The Last Happy Summer