Corinne's Reviews > Water Street

Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff
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Jan 27, 2016

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, coming-of-age, mother-daughter, american, friendship, on-the-water, books-and-reading, immigrants, new-york-city, lower-east-side
Read in March, 2008

I finished this book with a smile on my face. I've been meaning to read it for a long time - ever since I saw the cover at my library. I love stories of New York in the late 19th century, and this one was a particularly good read.

Bird is the child of two Irish immigrants and her family is living in Brooklyn during the time that the Brooklyn Bridge is being built. A new neighbor moves into the top floor of their tenement and thirteen year old Bird and Thomas (whose only family is his perpetually drunk father) become close friends. Throughout the novel Bird is trying to discover what it is she most wants to do - she wants to be a healer like her mother but a scary experience makes her think she's not up to the harshness of that life.

Bird's family is a tight-knit and loving group, worrying about each other, enveloping Thomas into their midst and finding ways to make do with very little. Every member of the family has their dreams of what a better life would be, and the half finished bridge is an apt metaphor for that gap between their reality and their hopes for something better.

The book is a lovely portrait of a time and place. Griff doesn't fill the dialog with fancy phrases or extensive descriptions - it's just like you've dropped into their life for a year and by the end, you're absolutely wanting all their dreams to come true. For those interested in young adult historical fiction, I highly recommend it.
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