This wasn't quite as good as Wonderland Creek or A Proper Pursuit, but Lynn is still a fantastic storyteller. She has such vivid descriptions of place...moreThis wasn't quite as good as Wonderland Creek or A Proper Pursuit, but Lynn is still a fantastic storyteller. She has such vivid descriptions of places and time periods that I felt like I was alongside the sisters on the boat to America or staying in their aunt's boarding house and exploring Chicago. Because this book had three protagonists, the character development wasn't quite as good as in her other novels. Each of the sisters felt like they were defined by one characteristic or event from their past, and very little beyond this was expanded on: Elin had trouble trusting men because her uncle had abused her, Kristen was worried that the truth of her relationship with Tor was going to ruin her sisters' reputations, and Sofia was just plain scared of anything new. Honestly, I think Sofia was my favourite character because she really broke out of her mould (and relatively early in the story) and tried a lot of new things. At times, the minor characters seemed a little stereotyped too, particularly Bettina and Hilda, but understandably it's hard to realistically develop all of the characters in this novel. And as much as I appreciated the spiritual message in the novel, there were several sections where it felt like Sofia was just reading out a sermon. It could have been integrated a little better.
My only other complaint about this book is that I wished the topics of suicide and abuse had been dealt with better. The abuse one did seem to suddenly be clarified towards the end of the novel, when Kristen told her sister that she wasn't to blame for her uncle abusing her, but I wish this had been a larger part of the novel because I know that there are a lot of people who think they're to blame for the abuse they've suffered. The issue of suicide was one that bugged me a lot more. We're told continually that the sisters' father committed suicide, and this has tainted the family's reputation because suicide is a sin. I figured that once they got to America, someone would set them straight about this as well, as Kristen did with Elin's abuse, but yet another character (who is meant to be painted as a good Christian man) tells Kristen that he tried to commit suicide and that he now knows that this is a sin. This idea that suicide is a sin and that anyone who commits suicide won't get into heaven is incredibly damaging, and overlooks the wider issue of mental illness. I know that people didn't know a lot about mental illness at the time this book was set, but even if someone had acknowledged that their father was too overcome with grief to know what he was doing, rather than billing him as a coward who abandoned his children, I would have been satisfied. As someone who suffers from depression, painting depression as cowardice is very difficult to read about.
Although I had my issues with parts of this novel, it was still a fascinating insight into what it was like to emigrate to the United States at this point in history, and how difficult it was to be a single woman who didn't speak English when you entered the country. It's not one of Lynn's best books, but it's still an engrossing read. 3.5*(less)
I can't comment on this book or rate it yet, as I read it in order to judge the Romance category of the Inspy Awards. You'll have to wait until the wi...moreI can't comment on this book or rate it yet, as I read it in order to judge the Romance category of the Inspy Awards. You'll have to wait until the winner is announced in late June. (less)