--Nancy E. Turner, author of These is My Words A moving, powerful, and evocative debut novel, When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt heralds the arrival of superb new voice in American fiction. Read more...
--Nancy E. Turner, author of These is My Words A moving, powerful, and evocative debut novel, When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt heralds the arrival of superb new voice in American fiction. A tale rich in color, character, and vivid historical detail, it chronicles the tumultuous life journey of a young immigrant seamstress, as she travels from her isolated Italian mountain village through the dark corners of late nineteenth century America. A historical novel that readers of Geraldine Brooks, Nancy Turner, Frances de Pontes Peebles, and Debra Dean will most certainly cherish, When We Were Strangers will live in the mind and the heart long after its last page is turned.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-10-11
- Reviewer: Staff
Schoenewaldt's heartbreaking debut is the late 19th century immigrant coming-of-age story of poor, plain Irma Vitale. When Irma's mother dies, she warns her 16-year-old daughter that leaving their little Italian village dooms her to die among strangers. A few years later, Irma, frightened of her increasingly lustful father, leaves her village and, armed only with her sewing skills and a small dowry, secures passage on the Servia, where she meets the first in a series of helpful strangers who will color, shape, and add the occasional zest of danger (her face is scarred by the time she disembarks) to her journeys. In America, her friendships with a few determined women--Lula, an African-American cook; Molly, an Irish maid; and Sofia, an Italian nurse--help keep her afloat and moving from a Cleveland sweatshop, through misery and rejuvenation in Chicago, and, finally, to the lush hills in San Francisco. Though some plot turns are played too melodramatically, Irma's adventures and redeeming evolution make this a serious book club contender. (Feb.)