Thursday, January 2, 2014

When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt

★ 1/2

"We would never return to Kos or Opi, for they held no  more place for us, and yet they were home, woven deep in our flesh."

Born and raised in a remote mountain village, 20-year-old Irma struggles with the lose of her mother and her life at home.  Too plain and poor to marry, she is left with no other option that to immigrate to America and work as a dress-maker.  Through Irma's journey, she meets people just like her struggling to make it in their new home.  By chance, she learns that her gift with needlework will lead her on another path - volunteering at a free-clinic and eventually traveling to San Francisco to pursue training as a nurse.

This was a typical "immigrant" novel.  I enjoyed Irma's unique story and her path to find herself in a world where she knows no one.  Her struggles are a testimony of the millions of people worked to make new lives for themselves.  One of the main themes throughout the book was having to leave everything behind and start a new life.  I liked learning about the medicine practices at the time, but I was a little frustrated with the ending - it fit ok with the novel, but seemed to come out of nowhere and I'm not sure how well it first with Irma's character.  All in all a decent book and I enjoyed reading about 19th century practices in America.

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