Just finished this book. It’s a tear-jerker:
The book is a fictionalized story based on this depression-era photograph:
In Sold on a Monday, we meet a 1930s newspaper reporter named Ellis Reed, who is young, ambitious, and desperate to get a byline in the paper. He needs a big break. One day, while driving around looking for a story, he comes by a country house with a sign in the yard announcing “2 children for sale.” He takes a photo.
His boss, upon seeing the photo, commissions a story, but then both the photo and negative are ruined, so the story can’t run. Ellis, being resourceful, returns to the remote area, retrieves the sign from the front of the now-abandoned house, and props it up in front of another house in order to re-create the picture. Then two kids and their mother emerge from the house to see what he is doing.
Later, when the kids go missing, a mystery ensues. Were they kidnapped? Taken into care? Purchased? Did the mother take advantage of the idea and actually sell them?
Ellis faces a moral quandary – Did his “staging” of the photo make all of this happen?
Together with his coworker Lily, Ellis seeks to locate the children and their mother, and to ensure that the family is doing all right. Along the way, we meet Ellis’s parents, Lily’s boyfriend, and a gang of mobsters who might be connected to the kids’ disappearance. Ellis and Lily find themselves getting in deeper and deeper, both for their own reasons. And Ellis is desperate to assuage his guilt and ensure that he didn’t harm this family.
I found the book to be a fascinating character study. Ellis is desperate for a byline in the paper, but did he go too far? Were his actions innocent, and just turned out badly? Or did he set this chain of events in motion because of his own ambition? We see Ellis twisted and turned by this moral quandary, all while trying to put things right.
There are many plot surprises along the way.
Winnie and the Professor