In a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business . . .
Nobody knows the people of Wooster, Ohio, better than switchboard operator Vivian Dalton, and she’d be the first to tell you that. She calls it intuition. Her teenage daughter, Charlotte, calls it eavesdropping.
Vivian and the other women who work at Bell on East Liberty Street connect lines and lives. They aren’t supposed to listen in on conversations, but they do, and they all have opinions on what they hear—especially Vivian. She knows that Mrs. Butler’s ungrateful daughter, Maxine, still hasn’t thanked her mother for the quilt she made, and that Ginny Frazier turned down yet another invitation to go to the A&W with Clyde Walsh.
Then, one cold December night, Vivian listens in on a call between that snob Betty Miller and someone whose voice she can’t quite place and hears something shocking. Betty Miller’s mystery friend has news that, if true, will shatter Vivian’s tidy life in Wooster, humiliating her and making her the laughingstock of the town.
Vivian may be mortified, but she isn’t going to take this lying down. She’s going to get to the bottom of that rumor—get into it, get under it, poke around in the corners. Find every last bit. Vivian wants the truth, no matter how painful it may be.
But as Vivian is about to be reminded, in a small town like Wooster, one secret usually leads to another. . .
As I read The Operator, I felt myself swept back in time to the 1950s small town in which I lived growing up. Back then, not only did operators connect our calls, but we also had party lines and could hear some of our neighbors’ conversations.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of switchboard operators and how much control these young women had over the conversations and the happenings around them.
Alternating narrators take us through the stories in this fascinating book, serving to distract me completely from my own current troubles, remembering those long-ago times and the incidents that affected small town lives.
I felt compassion for Vivian, whose family life growing up set the stage for an adulthood full of envy of those with more. Those who had privileges she had not known.