Whole minutes passed when I didn’t think of my man and the swimming lesson set up for the next day, if no one was murdered before then, or the cars stopped, or a bomb go off somewhere… 

On a hot, humid Monday afternoon in July 1919, Maeve Curragh watches as a blimp plunges from the sky and smashes into a downtown Chicago bank building. It is the first of ten extraordinary days in Chicago history that will forever change the course of her life. Racial tensions mount as soldiers return from the battlefields of Europe and the Great Migration brings new faces to the city, culminating in violent race riots. Each day the young Irish immigrant, a catalogue order clerk for the Chicago Magic Company, devours the news of a metropolis where cultural pressures are every bit as febrile as the weather. But her interest in the headlines wanes when she catches the eye of a charming streetcar conductor. Maeve’s singular voice captures the spirit of a young woman living through one of Chicago’s most turbulent periods. Seamlessly blending fact with fiction, Mary Burns weaves an evocative tale of how an ordinary life can become inextricably linked with history.



Praise for

The Reason for Time


   A "Must Read" Chicago book


“An engaging work of historical fiction” —Foreword Reviews

(Selected as a finalist for the Foreword Award in Historical Fiction)

“The character and her life are completely engrossing and entirely believable.” —Coast Reporter

 “The story is both fevered and thoughtful as the days unfold, a well-paced work that ebbs and flows with just the right amount of tension…Maeve’s voice has a distinct rhythm all its own, which…lends the story a rich authenticity. Maeve herself feels real as well, a complex character full of hope and savvy…A spirited, spunky young woman, Maeve is not perfect. But she is likable, and her story is compelling…Full of history, local color, compelling characters, and a complex storyline, The Reason for Time is a quick read, but one that lingers and makes one wonder about the many other stories that could be told of that tumultuous summer of 1919.” —Chicago Book Review

“Burns plunges the reader into the world of Chicago in 1919. Her flawless use of Irish brogue in Maeve’s first-person voice pulls us ever deeper into the events…An amazing tale from a master of her craft.” (Editors’ Choice selection)—Historical Novels Review


"...History buffs will enjoy the research, and how Burns brings the era alive with meticulous details of clothing, etiquette and daily routines.

But the real strength of the book is in the consistent and believable voice of the young Maeve as she struggles to make sense of her place in this rapidly changing world."

                                            Jo Ann Kelly, CBC Radio

“The Reason for Time, Mary Burns’s fifth novel, is a work of art…Burns’s thorough research into Chicago history is never obtrusive but comes through naturally as part of what Maeve sees, hears and thinks about during the course of her day…Though Maeve is not exactly honest to the core, she is an appealing character because of her resourcefulness and her practical, broad-minded philosophy…[a] remarkable historical novel.”
— Compulsive Reader