Sunday, September 8, 2013

Touched by Fire by Irene N. Watts

I find this well written and engaging. Even though it's aimed at middle-grade readers more than adults, I was sucked into the story. The simplicity of it--in order to appeal to and be understood by younger readers--did not deter me. I simply found it a quick but enjoyable read.

Touched by Fire
It's about a young girl in Russia, whose family is tired of pogroms. They are Jewish and constantly being punished for being so with high taxes, forced moves, and brutality, such as having their homes burned down.

They dream of going to America, where they will not be persecuted, but the fare is expensive and most families could only go a few people at at a time. From Russia to Germany, we follow this family and the story is told from the POV of the older daughter.

It's a story about hope, dreams, and finally, making the journey. It's about a family divided--the horrid little brother...oooh, I wanted to slap that boy. He needed a spanking.

It's about pinching pennies and worrying and just imagine being fourteen and traveling all alone from Germany to America on a ship full of strangers! With sea-sickness, lewd sailors, catty passengers...

What was new to me was the details about health check ups and turning immigrants away before they even board the ship. That was interesting.

Then we get to New York and learn about the Shirtwaist fire--the conditions the women worked in, the fire escape that doesn't reach street level, the ladders that don't reach the ninth floor, the locked doors that only open inward and permit a person at a time... WOW!

My only quibble is the blurb made it sound like much of the book was about the factory life. It's not. It's only the last quarter.

On another note, I felt the ending was a very unique and creative way to end this tale. I didn't see that coming and I liked it.

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