I have always thought this part of me to be rather odd. The way I seem to be able to pick up a book right when I need it. It can’t be forced. I’ve tried. I have had times where I have entered a library or bookstore and forced myself to choose a book, just so I don’t leave empty handed. It never seems to have the same magic as when it comes naturally. When a book truly calls to me, I can’t stop reading the back cover. I will flip through the pages, maybe even peruse a page or two. Every single time this happens, I have found it is a book I need to learn something about myself, to let go of something that has its hooks securely dug into me, or even to affirm something I already hold true.
This book was the latter. It is an excellent book about the lives of two immigrant women, a mother and a daughter, from Italy. Their immigration happens just before the time of our nation’s biggest labor movement. It describes in detail the types of lives the women lead under horrible work conditions, and the good fortune her mother had getting placed in a job that she was able to give her daughter an education and not force her daughter to work as well. It addresses the heart wrenching agony of a daughter having to potentially give up her dreams to take care of her mother who starts to suffer from mental illness, doing everything she can to keep her mother out of the public sanitariums.
My Aha! Moment as to why this book called to me was when her daughter joins up in the labor movement fight, putting aside her dreams of furthering her education to help her fellow immigrants fight for fair wages and work conditions, after the historical Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. I was a participant in a rally in New York in 2011 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this tragic event, and am a former shop steward.
Filled with human emotion ranging across the spectrum, this book will having you feel sorrow, cheer, anger and joy throughout. Have some tissues handy for a couple of scenes. Reading this book on my breaks at work was extremely hard. When a good book hits you in the heart, it’s hard to function after difficult chapters for the characters.
If you have already read this book, please comment. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t, I would recommend adding it to your reading list for the year.