In the drought-ridden days of the 1930s, eighteen-year-old Elena Huhtala finds herself living alone, a young Finnish woman in a small community of Swedes. Her mother has been dead for many years, her father, burdened by hardship, has disappeared, and she becomes an object of pity and fascination to her neighbours.
When a stranger shows up at a country dance, Elena takes up with him and leaves the village of Trevna behind. What follows is a journey in Bill Longmore's flashy Lincoln roadster, over gravel roads, surrounded by the dry, barren fields of Saskatchewan and the big, indifferent sky. As they pass through small prairie towns, with their wide, dusty streets and shabby hotel rooms, we meet an unforgettable group of locals, whose stories take us into their individual and surprising worlds. No one is unaware of Elena's enigmatic presence among them. At the centre, is the girl Ruth. Her chance encounter with Elena upends her life and creates an unexpected, and unwanted, bond between them that haunts them both for decades. Distanced and apart, in their own ways, both search for what has been lost.
Written in luminous prose, threaded through with sardonic wit and deep wisdoms, A Beauty is at once poignant and razor-sharp, moving and mysterious, as it explores the meaning of home and belonging, the nature of forgiveness, and the ways of coming to love.