21 November 2011

Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

We meet Raisa in Poland, living alongside the only family she has left since her sister left for New York City a few years before, and we are beside Raisa when she decides she must travel to try to rejoin her sister.  We follow Raisa by ship though her journey to America, where she meets and cares for young Brina after her mother dies aboard the vessel.  And we struggle along with her as she tries to find her place alone in a vast strange city, filled with people, words, and streets that she cannot understand . . . until she finds Gavrel, a young Jewish man with dreams of being a Rabbi, who brings Raisa and Brina home to his family and to their small Polish shtetl.  Raisa soon finds work making shirtwaists in the city's warehouses, ultimately joining her friends at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  When a terrible fire engulfs the building, her American dreams all but shatter.

By far one of the most enthralling historical fiction titles I've read lately.  It's in a completely different ballgame from one of my recent favorites, Revolutions by Jennifer Donnelly, but it's equally amazing in its character development - especially if you consider the physical setting a character, which I very often do, if the setting is done well enough!  Recommended to all ages, and particularly those who like to get sucked into the world of historical fiction.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

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