WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS by Pamela Schoenewaldt

PUB. INFO: HarperCollins, 2/2011
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SETTING: Italy/America 1880’s
HEROINE: Irma Vitale, 20
TIMESPAN: 8 years or so

From Publisher: “If you leave Opi, you’ll die with strangers,” Irma Vitale’s mother always warned. Even after her beloved mother’s passing, 20-year-old Irma longs to stay in her Abruzzo mountain village, plying her needle. But too poor and plain to marry and subject to growing danger in her own home, she risks rough passage to America and workhouse servitude to achieve her dream of making dresses for gentlewomen.

In the raw immigrant quarters and with the help of an entrepreneurial Irish serving girl, ribbon-decked Polish ragman and austere Alsatian dressmaker, Irma begins to stitch together a new life…until her peace and self are shattered in the charred remains of the Great Chicago Fire. Enduring a painful recovery, Irma reaches deep within to find that she has even more to offer the world than her remarkable ability with a needle and thread.

MY THOUGHTS: I was a bit disappointed in this novel. The plotline was interesting but tedious to read most of the time. Too much time was spent on her mundane day-to-day work as a seamstress in Ohio, then California. A couple of interesting things happened to her, which I won’t spoil, but when those parts were resolved, I got bored and was wishing the book would hurry up and end.

Heroine was totally likeable as were most of the characters, even the bad ones. A good story must have their bad characters, right? I didn’t like when she started working with the lady in the clinic or when she started going to nursing schoo. It just didn’t interest me.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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