What I Loved:
Following the story of Helen from Lithuania to America was just wonderful. Helen is the kind of character you just need to see succeed. I loved reading about her story and her determination.
This historical fiction is based on the author’s grandmother’s experiences,but is a work of fiction. Helen (Hinde), just sixteen-years-old, lives in war-torn Lithuania where Jewish people are persecuted daily. At her brother’s 12th birthday, the army comes to take him away to force him into their ranks. After hiding him during the army’s visit, the family knows that they must leave to keep their children safe.
Helen’s father is first to go to America, working to save enough money to bring Helen over next so that she can assist in working and saving money to bring the next family member over until everyone is safely in America.
Helen travels by ship from Lithuania to America in search of a better, safer life for her and her family. She begins work in the garment section of New York and works hard to bring her siblings to America.
How I Felt:
Stitching a Life: An Immigration Story follows Helen on her journey to America and her life there. It was a beautiful story featuring a determined, hardworking main character, and her love for her family.
The main character is Helen, named Hinde early in the story. At just sixteen-years-old she showed such amazing strength. I really enjoyed her character, and I feel like she is someone that young readers can look up to. She has a beautiful character arc as she grows and finds her way in this new world.
There is a lot of discussion of antisemitism and the impact on families. I think that this would make an excellent book for a middle school, high school, or college class, or book club discussion. There is a lot to be learned from the actions of the Jewish and non-Jewish people throughout the story, and it would make for a very interesting conversation.
Overall, this was a lovely story that was heartwarming and featured one family’s immigration story, but it is one that can resonate with a huge audience.
To Read or Not To Read:
I would recommend Stitching a Life: An Immigration Story for readers that enjoy historical fiction, stories of family, or immigration.
This was an easy read with a very straightforward story that could be read by a junior high, high school, YA, or adult reader.
Where to Find This Book:
Stitching a Life: An Immigration Story by Mary Helen Fein publishes on June 9, 2020 and is available at these sites.
It’s 1900, and sixteen-year-old Helen comes alone in steerage across the Atlantic from a small village in Lithuania, fleeing terrible anti-Semitism and persecution. She arrives at Ellis Island, and finds a place to live in the colorful Lower East Side of New York. She quickly finds a job in the thriving garment industry and, like millions of others who are coming to America during this time, devotes herself to bringing the rest of her family to join her in the New World, refusing to rest until her family is safe in New York.
A few at a time, Helen’s family members arrive. Each goes to work with the same fervor she has and contributes everything to bringing over their remaining beloved family members in a chain of migration. Helen meanwhile, makes friends and—once the whole family is safe in New York—falls in love with a man who introduces her to a different New York—a New York of wonder, beauty, and possibility.
Just the Facts:
Stitching a Life: An Immigration Story by Mary Helen Fein
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: June 9, 2020
I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.