As the novel Shining Through opens, Linda Voss, the protagonist, seems to be a typical 1930s working girl. She worries about her alcoholic mother and spends lunch hours gossiping with the other secretaries, trying to conceal her crush on her handsome boss. But, like Isaacs's other female protagonists, she is witty, irreverent, and aware of her own sexuality. When war propels her into the midst of momentous events, she discovers her own inner resources and courage (which she deprecatingly calls foolhardiness).
The two men in her life, members of the Wall Street law firm where she works, handle levers of power which influence the entire nation. Through Linda's eyes, however, they are shown as vulnerable human beings. John Berringer, whom she marries, seems truly gifted by the gods; his intelligence, charm, and good looks impress everyone he meets. Only gradually does Linda — and the reader — discover the obsession which makes him unable to love. Edward Leland, an aristocrat and World War I hero who has the trust of the president himself, at first intimidates Linda. As the story proceeds she comes to know him as a man whose bravery and humane concern shows his true nobility to be of the spirit.
Many other characters touch Linda's life during the course of the novel. Almost all of them are developed at least two-dimensionally, rather than being mere stereotypes.
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