In Joanna Scottís Follow Me, a namesake granddaughter follows her grandmotherís colorful life, putting together the pieces of a sometimes tragic family drama and revealing secrets that have greatly impacted the lives of those involved.
When Sally Werner gives birth to a baby boy at sixteen, she is ill-equipped to handle the consequences or to accept the circumstances that led to the pregnancy. Impulsive and naÔve, Sally runs away from her rural Pennsylvania home, trusting her parents to care for her infant son. That action will haunt Sally throughout her life.
Constantly reinventing herself, each change in geography brings a new last name, from Werner to Angel to Mole to Bliss, Sally believing these nominal changes allow her to begin anew. Born in 1930, Sally has few survival skills but an exceptional amount of luck in finding families willing to take her in, a young girl alone with no resources.
Sallyís redeeming characteristic is her inability to forget about her baby son. No matter the circumstances, she faithfully sends money for his support to her family, even though they have turned their backs on the disgraced girl. She hopes one day to return and claim her son, that the family will raise him lovingly regardless of his unhappy beginning.
The readerís perception of this unusual woman is colored by her granddaughterís biased retelling of Sally Wernerís life story. Moving from place to place, from incident to incident and man to man, Sally eventually settles in New York with her small daughter in tow. Sallyís life is unpredictable, chancy and filled with the random urgencies of one who has made mistakes and must constantly watch her back.
In response to the poor decisions made along the way, Sally runs; she flees her home, her spreading reputation, and finally a man who treats her as a possession. A reader cannot help but want to intervene, to pull this impulsive woman back from the edge, to think before she acts, especially when her actions impact her daughter. All of her troubles stem from a jackrabbit reaction to threat, even though these events - and people - always catch up with her.
From the 1940s to the present, Sallyís granddaughter covers Werner-Angel-Mole-Bliss in every incarnation, reflecting the mores and social expectations of such a woman. Instead of fleshing out the story, leaving something to the readerís imagination, a surplus of detail makes the experience too often tedious. Reading this dramatic, ultimately tragic tale becomes a chore, Sally finally a foolish old woman who has squandered her years on missed opportunities and false impressions.