DiscoverHistorical Fiction

Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit


Worth reading 😎

This fictional tale explores the explosive story of the real-life Claflin sisters who take New York City by storm.

Post-Civil War America was a time of upheaval. Tired of war, the country revved up and blasted into the future. The transcontinental railroad offered new trade opportunities and opened the West to population migration. New schemes emerged to finance the growth, and with no rules to govern them, wealth was created and destroyed in an instant. It was also a time of  free thought cracking at the shell of old, hardened beliefs and practices. Black Americans were given the right to vote and the suffrage movement that in 1920 would result in American women’s right to vote, was coalescing. It was a time of many great persons and many great charlatans, often reveled later to be the same person.

That is the setting for Carrie Hayes’ intriguing novel, “Naked Truth, or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit.”  Actual events drive the narrative and actual people from history populate the story. The central characters are the Claflin sisters – Victoria, who as Victoria Woodhull would be the first American woman to run for President, and her younger sister Tennessee. They are, together and separately, true women of substance and as such challenged the established rules of mid-19th Century New York society. Besides their suffrage movement connections they opened the first-ever women-owned stock brokerage in the city and later, the first women-owned newspaper.

This is a time of faith healers, snake-oil salesman, new religious sects and spiritualism. Tennessee uses her “gift” as a clairvoyant to enter the upper crust of New York society because these suave financiers could not resist the idea of a naked medium telling their future. Her story suggests that everything is a con game, which is one of the themes explored in the story. That is also one of the concerns. Great events sweep through this tale with the speed of one of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad trains. The Crash of 1869? Ooo, bad. Trans-Atlantic schooner racing? Exciting, but dangerous. Next. Even important events that shaped the suffragette movement were reduced near soap opera levels by the lack of substance and catty-asides by participants about who was sleeping with whom. Yes, everyone is petty at times. Indeed, a plot device, but it diluted the impact of the story’s goals to show that women struggled then, and now, for equality, despite their great abilities. The story would have been better served with fewer big events to allow deeper character examination.

Reviewed by

I am a career award-winning journalist and the author of the four-book Frank Nagler Mystery series. Kirkus Reviews called Nagler "one of modern fiction's expertly drawn detectives." I have also written short stores, poetry, and literary fiction.


About the author

Carrie Hayes grew up around journalists, idealists and rule breaking women. When she began writing the Claflin sisters’ story, Carrie soon realized she’d have to break a few rules herself. The result is her debut novel, Naked Truth or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit. Carrie lives in New Jersey. view profile

Published on March 01, 2020

80000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by