Young women come of age working in industry during World War II, but are forced to surrender their jobs to returning soldiers after victory. Tilly Bettencourt is born into a family of bootleggers in 1921. The Ocean Shore Railroad has failed, and her hometown west of the Coast Range has become isolated. She is sheltered and safe; it is assumed her life will be much like her mother’s.
The country mobilizes after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Tilly leaves Montara for the shipyards in Richmond, California. She learns she is stronger and more capable than she ever imagined. At Kaiser No. 3, she meets her future business partner, Doris Jura. The women confront life away from home, lose loved ones to combat and befriend minorities, as the seeds of the civil rights and women’s movements are sown.
In the summer of 1945, Tilly and Doris receive layoff notices, but are unwilling to return to waitressing and selling cosmetics for a fifth of their war-time salaries. They pool their savings and start a business making sacramental candles that is successful until, one year later, an arsonist burns their factory. During the subsequent trial, long kept secrets are revealed.
Wax is about leaving home and finding ones own path. It’s a story of transformative friendship and of secrets that can no longer be kept.
Read by Ivy Henry