Title: When We Were Strangers
Author: Pamela Schoenewaldt
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Paperback: 336 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
A moving, powerful, and evocative debut novel, When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt heralds the arrival of superb new voice in American fiction. A tale rich in color, character, and vivid historical detail, it chronicles the tumultuous life journey of a young immigrant seamstress, as she travels from her isolated Italian mountain village through the dark corners of late nineteenth century America. A historical novel that readers of Geraldine Brooks, Nancy Turner, Frances de Pontes Peebles, and Debra Dean will most certainly cherish, When We Were Strangers will live in the mind and the heart long after its last page is turned.
When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt is a heart-warming, and at the same time heart-breaking, story of poverty, immigration, and of overcoming all barriers. The story’s main character, Irma, reminded me of my grandmother in her tenacious, never complaining, always finding ways to make ends meet, manner. Irma immigrated from Ori, Italy, and with her strength, determination, and skills as a seamstress was able to find jobs in the various cities she lived in upon her arrival to America. Schoenewaldt describes Irma’s life in vivid detail, where one is able to imagine being in Italy, traveling the long and arduous journey to America, and struggling in the numerous cities Irma calls home. Schoenewaldt expertly writes of the life and the struggles faced by those choosing to make a better life for themselves in America and the conviction, faith, and perseverance needed to survive. When We Were Strangers is a beautiful, deep, and detailed look at the life of immigrants in the 19th century and can be extrapolated in either direction. For myself, I saw my grandparents who struggled to make a better home in America, they too carried the same determination intermingled with poverty and unending hope that life could get better. I would highly recommend When We Were Strangers to all readers and strongly advise discussion groups to choose When We Were Strangers for their book club choice, as there is so much to be shared in this remarkable book.
Pamela Schoenewaldt lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy and the United States. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee and now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a medical physicist, and their dog Jesse, a philosopher.
For more reviews of the book, please follow the Book Tour.
I received a complimentary ARC of When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.