In Never Seen the Moon, journalist Sharon Hatfield chronicles the story of school teacher Edith Maxwell accused of murdering her coal-miner father in depression-era Appalachia. Hatfield’s detective work brings together the threads of this story to provide a mystery novel using the headlines and trial transcripts from real life. There are surprises to rival a John Grisham novel as Hatfield tells the legal tale of the young and vibrant Edith battling her raging father. The book journeys through the trials and appeals as two juries of twelve men convict Edith of murder and sentence her to a lifetime in prison. Never Seen the Moon seeks to integrate this account of Edith’s trials into a social commentary on Appalachia, yellow journalism, and women’s rights.
Hatfield’s book offers an interesting foray into the newspapers of yesteryear bringing to light difficult questions of battered women’s self-defense and media involvement in criminal trials that continue to plague the legal profession today. However, the review concludes that the book disappoints in its claim to analyze the gender issues of this era. The author’s focus on Edith’s strategic failure to focus her criminal appeals on the jury question misses the critical issue of what impact a “jury of her peers” might have had for Edith.
Law and History Review
Thomas, Tracy A., "Book Review, Sharon Hatfield, Never Seen the Moon: The Trials of Edith Maxwell" (2006). Akron Law Faculty Publications. 191.