In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, a lonely mother of three, is desperate for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, Asta and her three children are dead.
Emily Thornhill, one of the few women journalists in the Chicago press, wants to understand what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Determined, Emily travels to West Virginia to cover the murder trial and to investigate the story herself, accompanied by a charming and unconventional photographer equally drawn to the case. These heroic characters, driven by secrets of their own, will stop at nothing to ensure Powers is convicted.
A tragedy, a love story, and a tour de force of obsession, Jayne Anne Phillips’s Quiet Dell “hauntingly imagines the victims’ hopes, dreams, and terror” (O, The Oprah Magazine). It is a mesmerizing and deeply moving novel from one of America’s most celebrated writers.
Visiting QUIET DELL with Jayne Anne Phillips
Reading Group Guide
After the deaths of her husband and mother-in-law in quick succession, Asta Eicher is left nearly penniless to care for her three children. She seeks a companion through a matrimonial bureau, and begins a correspondence with a wealthy widower who called himself Cornelius Pierson. Pierson promises her the security and support she desires. Within weeks, she and her children are dead. Emily Thornhill, a female reporter and thoroughly modern woman, becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination. Emily boldly pursues leads from local police in West Virginia. She becomes personally entwined with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation and who is wracked by guilt for not saving the Eicher family from ruin. Together, they are instrumental in seeing the case to its close and finding justice for the Eichers.
“Phillips’s prose is as haunting as the questions she raises about see more
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