On November 18, 1897, Bertha Lane Mellish, a student at Mount Holyoke College disappeared from the campus. A minister’s daughter, twenty years younger than her only sister, Bertha was the pride of her small family. More comfortable with books than people, she left the genteel poverty of her Connecticut home hoping for a happier life at college. But what she found there, and what she learned at the mill where she worked her final summer, drove her beyond the sheltering walls of school and family.
The Button Field is a work of fiction, imagined from research about the real Bertha Mellish. It is coming-of-age story and a mystery, an exploration of a young woman’s hopes and expectations, of the face she showed the world and the desires she hid. And, ultimately, The Button Field investigates the space between what we can and what we will never know about the workings of another’s heart.
“ . . .The Button Field is more than a vivid and accurate representation of another time and place. Bertha’s vanished world reflects our own; she reappears to tell us something about the way our lives are lived, by comparison to hers. In the end, the author’s inquiring eye is twinned with the eye of the reader.”
–Madison Smartt Bell