I am thoroughly convinced that Amy Harmon can write anything. She is an author that can jump from genre to genre with such ease and agility, and I am HERE for it every time!
In The Unknown Beloved, we are taken to the 1930’s for a murder mystery. I didn’t realize this until over halfway through the book, but the serial killer, and many of the characters were real people, and that made me love this book even more! Dani is a fictional character, but she is a fantastic MC, and as Harmon hinted at in the author’s note, I agree…more stories of her and Mike would be awesome!
This book is a continuation of a family saga series that I just absolutely love! It starts with Yellow Crocus, set in the 1800s and follows the life of two women, Lisbeth, a white plantation daughter, and Mattie, a slave and wet nurse. Each book after that one continues to follow those women and their descendants. I would absolutely recommend that you start at the beginning of this series, but I think you could read this as a stand-alone if you really wanted to.
What I Loved: Paper Wife was a story filled with so much determination and pure resolve to make things work and I loved that! Mei Ling continues, time after time, to make choices that will take care of her, and her family. It was so amazing to watch her journey.
How I Felt: I was intrigued by a story of early immigrants to the United States and I loved that it was an arranged marriage. I had never heard of a paper family before this book, so I definitely learned something new! Mei Ling becomes a paper wife, leaving China and traveling to the US with her husband and step-son. I was fascinated by her journey, the customs she left behind, and the new laws and rules surround immigration to America. Once she was on US soil, she still had mountains of problems to overcome and her journey had me completely spell-bound.
To Read or Not To Read:
If you enjoy Historical Fiction, this is a great book for you! Reminding me a bit of Memoirs of a Geisha, while this is absolutely a different story, the history and culture of Paper Wife reminded me of this previous book I had read.
Mei Ling is the second daughter in the family. Days before her sister is to be married to a widower, she falls ill and Mei Ling is placed into the arranged marriage in her sister’s place. Mei Ling is a dutiful daughter and intends to honor her family and make this marriage work. She packs her things and heads to the church to meet her new husband.
Married life starts out completely different than she expected. She is immediately a mother to a young son from her husband’s previous marriage and living in different conditions than she imagined. She must pretend to be her husband’s previous wife to gain entrance to the United States.
As they board the ship to embark on their journey, she is separated from her new husband and left with the two year old boy she barely knows. She rarely sees her husband the entire journey, but makes new friends and learns a lot about what to expect as she sets foot on American soil.
Can she remember all the details necessary to fake who she really is? Once in the United States, circumstances will continue to change for her, giving us a wonderful story with a quick pace.
Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim
Page Count: 293 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pub Date: October 30, 2018
All Amazon and bookshop.org links are affiliate links which I am paid a small percentage of sales from with no additional cost to you. This is used to support the maintenance of this page.
What I Loved: With the characters years older than where we left them at the end of Yellow Crocus, I loved seeing the changes in each of their lives. The children of Lisbeth and Mattie have led very different lives than these two women did. I really appreciated the way the author showed those differences, giving each character experiences in the book that helped them to appreciate the lives they led and the sacrifices their parents made to get them to where they are today.
How I Felt: This beautiful sequel answered all the questions I had from reading the first book, Yellow Crocus. I was so excited to find this book, Mustard Seed, starts a few years after the first book. It gave the story time to develop and made such a wonderful plot! The book tackles some the subjects of women’s suffrage, civil rights, and the post-civil war behaviors and sentiments of the south. I loved that these issues were shown to the reader through the writing, rather than told to us. It was perfect.
Content Warnings: Derogatory language and slavery.
To Read or Not To Read: This is a wonderful book with a powerful story that would be great for readers that enjoyed The Help or the first book in this series, Yellow Crocus.
It’s 1868. The civil war has ended and we find Lisbeth and Mattie both living in the same town in Ohio. They live their separate lives, seeing each other rarely, as befits each of their statuses, but always remembering their special bond.
Lisbeth is called home to her dying father’s bedside and she decides to take both children with her to see their grandparents and her childhood home.
Mattie has decided it is time to head south to rescue her remaining family that are still living on the plantation. She demands that both her son and daughter accompany her to help and see where their roots are from.
From there, both parties of travelers come across obstacles and issues that they must overcome before they can make it back to Ohio. The story unfolds beautifully and will keep you reading way into the night to know what happens next.
Mustard Seed by Laila Ibrahim Sequel to Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim Page Count: 284 pages Publisher: Lake Union Publishing Pub Date: Nov 7, 2017
What I Loved: I stumbled across this book as I was perusing Amazon’s Kindle library. The synopsis grabbed me and I was not disappointed! The relationship between the two main characters, Lisbeth and Mattie was so beautiful. I loved being able to watch their relationship develop from Lisbeth’s birth. While the story covers a terrible part of American history, the story of these two people was beautiful.
How I Felt:
I am always intrigued by stories of the south before the civil war. I quickly become engrossed in these books, specifically if it covers escape to freedom, which this one does! I really appreciated the author’s ability to show me Mattie’s perspective of this story. As a young mother and slave, she is taken from her very young baby to nurse the brand new baby, Lisbeth at the Big House. Her sadness at the loss of early motherhood moments with her son struck me to the core, but I loved the development of her loving and tender feelings towards Lisbeth.
This book was a bit different from many stories that I have read like this, as the focus of the book was on the relationship between a child and her nurse. It focused greatly on Lisbeth’s experiences in life and how those affected Mattie. This also worked in reverse, as Mattie’s life experiences leave a lasting impression on Lisbeth. Her opinion of the world and her family are forever changed by what she sees in Mattie.
Content Warnings: Slavery and use of derogatory names.
To Read or Not To Read: Readers of books like The Kitchen House and The Help will enjoy this book immensely!
What’s This Book About Anyway?
At birth, Lisbeth is given a young slave as a wet nurse. Mattie, the nurse, is a new mother herself, but is removed from her cabin and baby to live in the Big House and care for Lisbeth. At first Mattie is resentful of little Lisbeth, as she is THE reason Mattie has been taken away from her baby, but she grows to love the little baby, caring for her day and night. Mattie looks forward to each morning and evening as she gets the chance to look out the window to see her little son as he enters and leaves their cabin.
As Lisbeth nears her first birthday, a brother is born and Mattie is taken from Lisbeth and assigned to the new baby. Mattie is heartbroken at this change and Lisbeth is despondent. She becomes so ill, Lisbeth’s mother finally calls for a change assigning Mattie permanently to Lisbeth. From there, the two bond and grow together. This book takes us through Lisbeth’s childhood and into early adulthood. It brings their story to life with beautifully written words and leaves you wanting more at the end.