Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Annie's Stories

Annie’s Stories
By Cindy Thomson
Tyndale, June 2014

About the Book

The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father.

After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House. But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

My Review

In the sequel to Grace’s Pictures, Thomson returns with a second story of an immigrant woman struggling to find her own way on the bustling streets of early twentieth century New York City. In this installment, Annie arrives in New York, leaving behind horrible memories of the Magdalene laundries of Ireland, where she was sent after her parents’ deaths. Now in America, she hopes to save enough money to return home, to a place where her beloved father entertained her with children’s stories he wrote himself, stories Annie now treasures as one of her few possessions.

But Annie isn’t the only New Yorker keen on books. The postman, Stephen, shares Annie’s love of magical stories and offers to discuss the newly published children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. In Stephen, a hard worker who is also struggling to make his way in the world, Annie finds a soulmate, someone she might be willing to trust after many long years of betrayal and hardship.

Against this backdrop come Annie’s cousin Aileen, a girl who initiated Annie’s trip to the Magdalene laundries, and a German immigrant, Kirsten, who resides at Hawkins House with Annie and the other immigrant girls. Meanwhile, a Pinkerton detective has taken a mysterious interest in Kirsten and begins to watch the house and make pointed inquiries about her activities, following and harassing the Hawkins House girls. The ladies wonder what he has against the girl and whether the detective will follow through on his threat to have the house named as a place of ill repute. Despite it all, Annie holds tightly to her father’s stories, hoping that maybe, like Baum’s Dorothy, she will one day make it home.

An enchanting tale of an immigrant girl who stands up and fights for what she wants, Annie’s Stories is a lovely continuation of Thomson’s faith-based stories. Filled with current events (McKinley’s assassination, whooping cough epidemic, the cultural melting pot, and financial schemes at the fledgling Stock Exchange), Thomson allows her readers to experience the rich history of Ellis Island immigrants alongside her characters. Personally, I think this book would be perfect for American History high school classes as an insider’s look into that time period, an experience more vivid than textbooks can provide.

Rebecca Henderson Palmer

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