It’s 1910, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A family of Eastern Europeans are struggling to survive. Janos is working in the mill twelve hour days, sometimes seven days a week, just to put food on the table. His wife, Karina, works as a housekeeper for a manager of one of the mines. They have two children. They’ve come to America for a better life. So why isn’t it better? They are poorly treated in the community and just want to make it better. Ever since giving birth to her oldest child, Korina has suffered postpartum depression. They didn’t call it that back then. They just knew something was not right. She has grown more distant from both her children and her husband. It isn’t helping that the manager she works for expects much more from her than mere keeping house. She is expected to take care of his sexual needs as well. She has kept this from her husband. But she longs to escape this life. Although she loves her husband and children, she dreams of leaving….
One day everything falls apart. A man is murdered in their town. Several people disappear. Karina disappears without a trace. Lucas, their young son, has a tragic accident that leaves him with a horrible disability. So Janos decides to take what is left of his family and find another, better place to live.
There are many characters involved in this story. The voices are vast. But it’s not hard to keep track of them. The disparages between the wealthy and poor are marked. Sophie is Janos and Karina’s daughter. Her childhood friend, Pole, is a delightful character. His story is filled with strength. And we meet a young woman of means named Edith that totally enchanted me.
My mother and grandmother were born in this area of the country so I have heard stories all my life about the immigrants. My husband was actually born and raised in Pittsburgh. Most of his family still live there. So he has his own stories and stories about the mills. The research Pasterick has done is stellar. She’s used stories from her family to enrich this book. She has not spared any feelings in the telling, either. It is sometimes harsh to read. But it’s a wonderful story filled with secrets and longings and important information about mental illness and postpartum depression.
My review copy was provided by She Writes Press through the offices of Spark Point Studio in exchange for an honest review. I think it’s absolutely stunning. I look forward to Pasterick’s next novel.