Of the 75 books I have read so far this year, this is one of the best! The writing quickly pulled me in, and I became totally lost in the story. Definitely a selection for my book club.
It may have been 102 years ago, but the story is especially relevant to us today as we fight a pandemic and deal with immigrant and racial issues. The story has moments of tenderness, but also the grim reality of those who strove to survive through the rampant illness and lack of food, while others took advantage of them. I sometimes found myself holding my breath, afraid of what might happen next as the paths of 13-year-old Pia Lange and Bernice Groves, a widow and grieving mother, continued to cross over the years.
Pia is a wonderfully brave little girl, and my heart ached for her as she endured one loss after another. She carried too heavy a burden of guilt and secrets for such a young girl. And Bernice Groves, the villainess you love to hate, was very well portrayed. Amongst all her cruelness and deviousness, there were fleeting moments when I almost felt sorry for her.
The pacing of the story is superb! It is a complex book, introducing us to a wide array of wonderful characters. But they are gradually introduced and well developed, so I had no difficulty keeping track of them. My attention never once waned from the story. The plotlines were masterfully controlled so that as one would start to lag, another would pick up. The story tugged on my heartstrings, while also filling me with disgust over how some people could be so cruel and heartless. I am in total awe of the writing in this incredibly special book.