Inspired by the real-life relationship between future movie star Louise Brooks and the woman who chaperoned her to New York City for a summer, this is the story of an unlikely friendship between two women who couldn't be more different—and how it changes both their lives.
In the summer of 1922, only a few years before she became a famous actress of the silent screen and an icon for her generation, fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks left Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she was accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone who was neither mother nor friend. Little is known about the real chaperone, but Laura Moriarty imagines her as Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reason for making the trip. Of course, Cora has no idea what she's in for: young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her black bob with bangs, was known for her arrogance, her lack of respect for convention, and her keen intelligence. Cora is hardly a stranger to adversity, but by the time their train pulls into Grand Central Station, she fears that supervising her cunning young charge will be at best exhausting and at worst impossible. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change one, if not both, of their lives forever.
For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might provide solace to a lifetime of yearning, and so even as she does her best to endure and watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she secretly perseveres on her own mission. She does indeed make a great discovery, and though it isn't the one she anticipates, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. The United States has been steadily moving out of the Victorian era and into the modern world, but the pace has been so much quicker in New York. Over the course of the summer, Cora's eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century, and she returns to Kansas with a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.