When We Were Strangers, written by Pamela Schoenewaldt, is a novel that will stick with readers' days after they've finished reading it. From the first page to its last, When We Were Strangers will break hearts and then mend them back together.
This powerfully written novel about a young woman, Irma, who journey's from the small Italian village, Opi, to America, is everything a reader should want in a book. I absolutely adore this novel. I checked it out on a whim, and I am patting myself on the back for doing so. Schoenewaldt is a storyteller if I've ever read one. The gritty details: the haunting faces, the scent of loss, the beating of hope. Every emotion a person experiences is vibrantly written in this novel.
Without giving away any spoilers, I have to point out how real When We Were Strangers feels. While reading this, I felt like I was there in person. At times I felt like I was Irma, other times, I felt like Irma was telling me this story. Either way it's looked at, every detail is so explosive. Schoenewaldt's way with words is beautiful and poetic.
The plot, the scenery, and the characters each have their own voice. From mountains, villages, stormy seas, and far beyond, each one whispered their story. The standouts are the characters. From Irma, the novels lead, to characters who share a brief nod of the head, each one personally connects with the readers. Schoenewaldt made sure the readers could see every fine detail of Irma's journey.
Told from Irma's point-of-view, the readers experience everything she does; and most of all, they feel everything she does. Sometimes I wanted to close this book because my heart was breaking, yet the other times I devoured every word like a starved person eating their first meal. Yes, When We Were Strangers is that good. It's mouthwatering and it is satisfying.
When We Were Strangers is one of the best novels I've read in a long time. Run out and grab a copy!
"If you leave Opi, you'll die with strangers," Irma Vitale's mother always warned. Even after her beloved mother's passing, 20-year-old Irma longs to stay in her Abruzzo mountain village, plying her needle. But too poor and plain to marry and subject to growing danger in her own home, she risks rough passage to America and workhouse servitude to achieve her dream of making dresses for gentlewomen.
In the raw immigrant quarters and with the help of an entrepreneurial Irish serving girl, ribbon-decked Polish ragman and austere Alsatian dressmaker, Irma begins to stitch together a new life . . . until her peace and self are shattered in the charred remains of the Great Chicago Fire. Enduring a painful recovery, Irma reaches deep within to find that she has even more to offer the world than her remarkable ability with a needle and thread.