Lucy Lobdell longs for self-sufficiency. But in mid-nineteenth-century America, women’s options are limited as far as financial independence. So, in hopes of providing for herself and her daughter, Helen, Lucy sets out on a journey dressed as a man. Taking on the persona of Joseph Lobdell, she begins building a new life and a new reputation for herself. In the course of her adventures, she falls in love with two women and is loved in return.
Author William Klaber lived in the home of Lucy Lobdell and got her story from a neighbor. Beyond that, he claims to have been compelled by her spirit to write this memoir in her voice. The main events of the story are factual, but the voice of Lucy Ann Lobdell comes from Mr. Klaber’s personal inspiration.
What most intrigued me about the jacket synopsis was the mention of Lucy’s struggle with feelings and choices that didn’t yet have a vocabulary. I wish that sense of linguistic frustration had been explored more deeply as I think it would have been deeply connected to Lucy’s ability to find contentment in who she was. Instead, she wrestled with her conflicts and embraced moments of, “I don’t care what the world thinks.” Still, in its portrayal of the very real challenges of a woman passing herself off as a man and falling in love with another woman, Mr. Klaber’s depiction is meticulous and successful.
I chose The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell quite by accident and likely wouldn’t have picked it if I’d read the synopsis properly. But in the end I’m glad I read it. For me, this story was about hearing from a unique voice and exposing myself to a perspective I wouldn’t normally be given. I suppose that’s what all novels are about, ultimately, but this one is a little more blatant about it. Mr. Klaber’s purpose, after all, was to give voice to a person who might otherwise have been lost in the shuffle of history. Lucy’s journey is quite remarkable and the setting is well-researched and portrayed. I recommend this to lovers of historical fiction or LGBT history and fiction.
A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Macmillan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.