Bright Morning Star, by Tom Coffey
Bright Morning Star is set in a familiar but faraway country — the
United States in the early 1900s. The novel’s protagonist, Emma
Pierce, is the quintessential “new woman” of the times. Talented and
sharp, she is the confidante and “right hand man” to her father, the
head of the prestigious Seneca Institute. Here she writes speeches and
letters for her father, and mingles with the great leaders and
thinkers of the day, from Theodore Roosevelt to Mark Twain, and
struggles to balance her father’s expectations with her growing sense
of independence. This balance is tested when she meets Caleb Johnson,
the charismatic son of a revivalist preacher, whose views on religion
are anathema to her father’s free-thinking sensibilities.
The test proves to be too much, and Emma finds herself estranged from her father, separated from Caleb, and embarking on an ambitious new career as a magazine writer in New York. It is there that her skills come to serve her best. Emma is assigned to cover the case of a soldier returning to America from the war in the Philippines. He has been court-martialed for violent crimes against civilians and faces a 20-year prison sentence. But the case is personal — the convicted soldier is Caleb Johnson, who is refusing to talk about the events that resulted in his conviction, and Emma, as determined as ever, vows to discover what led this honorable man to commit atrocities.