Acclaimed writer Michael Lowenthal’s absorbing historical novel tells the little known story of the treatment of young women suspected of prostitution during World War I. Seventeen-year-old Frieda Mintz finds herself in an unbearable domestic situation with her difficult mother following the death of Frieda’s father. Instead of marrying an unpleasant man twice her age, per her mother’s wishes, Frieda heads out on her own into Boston where she becomes a bundle wrapper at a department store. Frieda soon meets handsome U.S. Army private Felix Morse at a parade, and when they meet again, they spend a whirlwind day and reckless night together.
Tragically, Frieda contracts a sexually transmitted disease from the young soldier. Then to make matters much worse, a representative from the “Committee on Prevention of Social Evils Surrounding Military Camps,” a moral governmental crusade, soon comes to the department store looking for her. Eventually this committee captures Frieda and keeps her against her will in a government detention center, all in the name of protecting the troops. The story that unfolds is a distressing yet heartening narrative of Frieda’s struggle to remain independent and safe in the midst of this terrible crisis. Through his superb use of historical details and acute realism, Lowenthal portrays this appalling point in American history, when hundreds of young women were held without any suspicion of a crime. Lowenthal deserves high praise for both the conception of the project and for its remarkable, tightly woven, and utterly compelling result.