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When We Get There

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  304 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Over the course of one winter in 1974, in the coal-mining town of Banning, Pennsylvania, the youngest member of a large and boisterous Eastern European family gives himself a tall order: to find his mother, who recently disappeared without explanation. Lucas, an only child whose father died several years earlier in a coa-mine blast, lives with the legacy of loss. Despite h ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Bloomsbury USA
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Bethany
Oct 09, 2015 Bethany rated it it was amazing
"She walked over to a pile of clothes, picked up a big dress, and held it up to the light. 'Oh my,' she whispered. 'What is this doing here?' She ran her hand over it. 'This was my mother's. She wore it all the time.' She laid it down, carefully, on top of the pile. 'All the time.'
'Is she dead?' I said.
'What's wrong with you? You remember her, don't you? You remember when she died?'
'Not your mother,' I said. 'Mine.'"



When We Get There was such a rich book, each word used perfectly. My heart ached
...more
Diana
Aug 17, 2009 Diana rated it it was amazing
I liked this better than any other recent contemporary novel that I've read. It deserved more attention than it received. Her style reminds me of Margot Livesy, elegiac and beautifully crafted, with a genuinely unique perspective.
Helen Beesley
Aug 04, 2013 Helen Beesley rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Reads like a memoir, and the main character is just so awesome.
Lisa Mettauer
Aug 10, 2009 Lisa Mettauer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I just finished reading When We Get There by Shauna Seliy. In this sad but beautiful novel, Lucas is a 13-year-old boy living in a mining town in 1974 Pennsylvania as the coal mines are beginning to shut down. But not before Lucas’ father is blown to smithereens in the King mine. Mirjana, Lucas’ mother, handles this by taking to her bed - until one day she disappears. Lucky for Lucas, his huge family of Russian, Hungarian and Croatian descent all live in Banning, and his grandmother and great-gr ...more
Elizabeth
Aug 25, 2007 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful. It is a terrific debut novel. It is wry and funny and touching and full of hopes and promise. The narrator looks back on the winter he was 13 and his mother disappeared. I love this passage, about his mom and her would-be suitor, Zoli:

"Everyone said my mother looked like Hedy Lamarr. The way Zoli looked at her, you'd think she was Hedy Lamarr. He liked to say it was against the law to be as beautiful as she was, and then he'd pick up the phone and pretend to call the poli
...more
Eva
Apr 10, 2013 Eva rated it liked it
3-4 stars. Good, but I don't know why. The story is about a kid from an Eastern European immigrant family that lives in a mining town and is haunted by misfortune. Some kindle quotes:

Without the Croatian navigators, my father said, there would be no coal mines in America because there would be no America. So it was our own fault we had to work them. - location 176


Every morning when he was getting ready to go into the mine, my mother would lodge a piece of cotton between his pinky toe and the one
...more
Kimberly
Dec 25, 2015 Kimberly rated it it was ok
It was ok. My least favorite part was a lot of language in the book, cussing that pulled me away from the story. Going back, I might not have read it if I had known how much I would have to power through.

There were some rich and interesting cultural things, and sadness about a time of lawlessness that we usually don't have now. A lot about Russian superstitions, but also about a kid who is growing up, and sees some strength in some of those traditions.
Bonnye Reed
Aug 16, 2015 Bonnye Reed rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written book, an interesting period in our history in an area- Pennsylvania - I had always imagined as fully civilized and a bit staid. You will fall in love with Lucas Lessar and his salty Aunt Slat and even his great grandfather and they will all wring your heart of tears. Shauna Seliy paints a world for us to visit, and does it beautifully. I love the way the tales from the old country become the stories and songs of every generation of this family, and how they are bound one to ...more
Sarah Powley
Jun 11, 2007 Sarah Powley rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People from 13 to 93
This beautiful coming-of-age story will appeal to adults, but kids will like it too because the narrator, the boy Lucas, is real: confused, determined, funny, surprising, and sometimes reckless. Wonderful characters people the story: Lucas' immigrant great-grandfather whose pear tree provides the symbolism; his grandmother with the improbable and perfect name, "Slats"; Zoli, the passionate and violent suitor who menaces Lucas as both of them search for Lucas' missing mother. The imagery is outst ...more
Jennifer
Dec 18, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I don't remember how I learned of this book, but I read it this week and quite liked it. It takes place in a mining town and the main character is a 13-year-old boy who has been abandoned by his mother, leaving him to live with his grandmother. In addition to a somewhat eccentric great-grandfather and a crazy ex-boyfriend of his mother's, townspeople fill out the rest of the characters. This is the author's debut novel and I'll be interested in where her career goes from here.
Tania
Feb 15, 2008 Tania rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
An exquisite first novel from a native Pittsburgher. Told from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy looking for his mysteriuosly missing mother as he lives in the tight-knit Eastern European community of a dying mining town in SW Pennsylvania. I read it because the author's mother was my boss at the time and was immensely relieved to find that I wouldn't have to tiptoe around my response. It really is a terrific novel. Would be fun for a book group.
AmyBeth Inverness
Dec 06, 2012 AmyBeth Inverness rated it really liked it
No spoilers.

I stepped a bit out of my usual genre to read this at a friend's suggestion. I'm glad I did! Primarily, the book is exceptionally well-written with a voice that draws the reader in. I felt that the author must have had actually known these people and lived in this place to bring it to life so well, though I have no idea if that is true.
Jessica
Nov 01, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys a well-written novel
This is a gorgeously written book, full of heart. It's about a boy growing up in a small mining town near Pittsburg, PA, and his relationships with his mother (who goes missing), his grandmother, his elderly Great-grandfather, and the rest of his close-knit community. The themes are universal and the voice is wonderful and fresh. Read it.
Kay
Dec 09, 2012 Kay rated it it was ok
No Offense to the author, but I hated this book. The story line was confusing until the middle of the book. I felt the characters were not well established in the first few chapters and the story line seemed to bounce back and forth in time without a true reason why. The story line was very confusing and scattered.
Susan
Dec 28, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
This was a great read and was based upon the history of mining in small town America, in Pennsylvania. Having Croatian grandparents that came to America and a grandfather that worked in the mines upon his arrival in America, this was very touching about the many hardships many immigrants faced.
Anya
Aug 25, 2007 Anya rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
I liked how timeless this story was. It follows a boy from an immigrant family in a poor working class town. It could be taking place now or 50 years ago, but the powerful feelings of loss and confusion that he experiences are not any less vivid. Beautifully written.
Angela
Dec 22, 2012 Angela rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written book. The writing was excellent and vivid to the point in which I felt like I was really there. The character development was brilliant. I could not put this book and down. I hope to see more from this author.
Barb
Mar 26, 2012 Barb rated it really liked it
Beautiful writing. Just a wonderful quiet story about a boy coming of age trying to understand his family's past and find his part in all of it. Delightful characters. This is the author's debut novel and I'm looking forward to more of her work.
Shannon
Jan 15, 2013 Shannon rated it liked it
At first I could not get into this and wondered why I bought it. but i ended up looking forward to finding out what happenef. also enjoyed the family and friends and relationships they developed. if i could do half stars i wouldsay 3.5.
Becky
Mar 21, 2013 Becky rated it liked it
I had high hopes for this book, based on previous Goodreads reviews, but I found it to be really strange, with shallow characters and bizarre storylines. I found myself skimming at the end just to finish it. Would not recommend it!
Megan
Jul 16, 2007 Megan added it
This was a good book--kind of like a lazy evening at home, the book was patient and laid-back, yet kept my attention.

Recommended to anyone who wants a break from fast-paced dramas, girly comedies, or heart-thumping thrillers.
Heather
Nov 18, 2012 Heather rated it it was ok
I kept reading because the relationship between Lucas and his great grandfather & grandmother were interesting and heartwarming at times. A decent book but not telling anyone it's a must read.
Divina
Jan 15, 2008 Divina rated it it was amazing
I bought this at an author reading (friend of a friend of a friend...) to be supportive, and I am VERY glad I did. This is an excellent first novel with well drawn characters both old and young.
Heather
Nov 23, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2013-reads
I loved this charcter and the cultural depiction of his Eastern European family. Beautiful (sad) imagery and an emotional portrayal of a young boy finding his place in the world.
Sian Griffiths
Sep 19, 2014 Sian Griffiths rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel-literary
Seily writes of the coal mining, immigrant culture of rural Pennsylvania with love. Her compassion for her characters breathes life into this story and kept me turning pages.
Christopher
Jun 03, 2009 Christopher rated it it was amazing
Wonderful debut novel set in a small post-industrial town outside of Pittsburgh, full of folklore, ghosts, love and sorrow. The writing was beautifully crafted.
Jen
Oct 29, 2009 Jen rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. It took me a while to finish it because I didn't want it to end. Loved the spare prose, the setting, and the finely drawn characters.
PMP
Oct 04, 2007 PMP rated it really liked it
A paler shade of "Housekeeping". Still, rich, textured and troubling. The most believable and unconstructed dialogue I've read in recent memory.
Mary
Feb 22, 2012 Mary rated it it was ok
The plot was just this sort of slow, meandering story. Nothing too exciting, more like a snapshot of the main character's life on winter.
Lina
Nov 18, 2011 Lina rated it liked it
This story enjoyable and keeps the readers interest,but I couldn't say it's the best thing I've ever read. Full of great motifs.
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