Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Five Minutes with Maggie-Sin in the Second City


In turn-of-the-century Chicago, one neighborhood, the Levee district, houses the city's vices – casinos, dance halls, saloons, and brothels. One such brothel, the Everleigh Club, boasts international renown. Karen Abbott's book, Sin in the Second City: Madams, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul, chronicles the rise and fall of Chicago's vice district through the eyes of the Everleigh sisters and their famous club. The two sisters, Minna and Ada, ruled the Levee district. They treated their girls well and their customers better. In the earliest years of the 1900s, Chicago's streets teemed with unruly criminals clashing with staunch reformers. The unrest infiltrated the city. Violent protests forced the city's government to act. Throughout this turbulent point in Chicago's history, the Everleigh sisters watched and weathered changes in government and popular opinion. Abbot uses their experiences running their brothel to unravel the city's sordid history and to shed light on the conflicts at that period in American history.


The best nonfiction reads like a novel – intriguing dialogue, interesting characters, plot and action. Abbott's book accomplishes all those things, while providing an incredible amount of information. She meticulously reports on her own research methodology in both the introduction and conclusion of the book. Sin in the Second City is as entertaining as it is informative. From cover to cover, Abbott sucks the reader in with the sisters' charming personalities, the fascinating history of Chicago, and an underlying humor that makes this book a must-read!

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