On a single day in 1888, three babies were born in Washburn, Ohio within hours of each other. Lily Scofield, her cousin Warren and their friend Robert Butler were inseparable as children, and grew up as an unbreakable threesome.
In adulthood, their bond weakens when Lily and Robert marry. Townsfolk speculate on Warren's true feelings for his cousin, but he never acts on their assumptions. When Robert is called to serve in World War I, Lily and Warren spend a great deal of time together. Headstrong Lily still believes she can maintain the childhood friendship. Her plans are complicated by Warren's marriage to Agnes Claytor. The story continues to follow these four people, in marriage right through to the births of their children, while living in the heart of the changing nation.
The Evidence Against Her is a novel of painstaking detail. The major events in the lives of the characters are merely scenery. Author Robb Forman Dew prefers to focus on the emotions and feelings of her four main figures. Special attention is paid to dysfunctional behavior within the three successful Washburn families.
Readers are introduced to the Claytor family, which is full of abuse and manipulation. Of course none of this behavior is witnessed outside the home. It's also the driving factor for young Agnes to marry much older Warren as soon as she graduates from high school.
The Scofields have their own issues. Warren struggles with his own feelings. His father falls victim to alcohol. Even Lily, who strives for an impossibly happy life, can't always keep events under her control.
The Evidence Against Her moves quickly through the characters' lives, yet simultaneously moves quite slowly. Dew takes the time to describe the emotions and subtle reactions of the people of such a refined era. Readers looking for fast action may be disappointed, as the real story is in the careful details of life in privileged Washburn.
Dew's story leaves some unanswered questions, including the interpretation of the title. The Evidence Against Her implies some sort of infraction committed by a female character. The most obvious conclusion is that the "her" is Lily, but that's not the case. The actual reference is up for debate as well as the "evidence" in question.
There's a possible answer at the very end of the story, though the incident revealed is not explored. The novel's final words are contained in a beautifully descriptive paragraph of the evening. However, the story ends somewhat openly leaving many to expect a sequel.
The Evidence Against Her is more complicated than most current releases in fiction. Today's readers have been spoon-fed tantalizing, somewhat obvious plots which don't require a lot of energy to comprehend. This novel is much more complex, commanding a great deal of attention and devotion from the reader. In simpler terms, this isn't a book for your beach bag.
I was intrigued by The Evidence Against Her even though it's not a happy book. I don't plan on recommending this novel to friends who prefer pleasant fantasy and escapism in their reads. Dew's work is best suited for those who can appreciate fine writing which resembles novels from the mid-19th century.