In a small Midwestern town in the wake of World War I, Alice Adams delightedly finds herself being pursued by Arthur Russell, a gentleman of a higher social class in life. Desperate to keep her family’s lower-middle-class status a secret, she and her parents concoct various schemes to keep their family afloat. Though the realities of her situation eventually reveal themselves and her relationship with Arthur fizzles, Alice’s acceptance of this leads her to seek out work to support her family with an admirable resiliency. An enchanting and authentic tale of a family’s aspirations to seek more out of life, Alice Adams reveals the strength of the human spirit and its incredible ability to evolve.
The second of the two Tarkington novels to win a Pulitzer, I enjoyed Alice Adams much more than The Magnificent Ambersons. First of all, the main character was not a stuck up, spoiled, rich brat. Second of all, Alice Adams is less racist. There are still some racial stereotypes in the book, but far fewer, and far less exaggerated than the ones found in his previous Pulitzer Prize winner. But mostly, I found the story more engrossing than The Magnificent Ambersons.
Alice Adams is slowly coming to the realization that the upper class girls who used to invite her to dances and dinners were never her friends. In her younger teenage years, she had been interesting enough to have all the popular boys in town over to her house, and thus found herself more popular among the girls, but while most of them went off to school, the Adams family did not have enough money to send Alice anywhere. And so she finds herself with increasingly fewer prospects, still hoping for some miracle to come along and sweep her off her feet.