Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review: Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin

Book Cover and Synopsis:
Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's death and father's suicide. Elin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare, and when circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help.

Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Elin, Kirsten, and Sofia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

My Thoughts:
I'm so glad I picked this one up; going in I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. The three sisters (Elin, Kirsten, and Sofia) are very close and have a deep love for one another, yet each one holds secrets they're afraid or too ashamed to share. These secrets ultimately lead them to leave their homeland behind in search of a new life in America. 

The point of view continually changes, going back and forth between the sisters. While all three sisters have a unique role and different ways of looking at things, Sophia is the one that stands out in my mind. Initially she greatly aggravated me with her pessimistic attitude, but once the sisters reached Ellis Island I was delighted to see an extreme change in Sophia's behavior, to the point that I found myself anticipating the chapters told from her perspective. She turned out to have a very good head on her shoulders, and the romance between her and the German immigrant she meets is simply beautiful. I never would've thought I'd enjoy a romance between two people who can't speak the same language, but I think it's actually one of the best I've ever read. It's very touching, and the way they used their Bibles to communicate was just *awesome*, there's no other word to describe it.

As I read, I felt as if I was going through the immigration process right along with the sisters. If I didn't know better, I'd think the author had actually gone through the process herself to be able to convey such details and vivid imagery. Something that really struck me was the hope all of the immigrants had for their futures in America, they looked upon our nation with such awe, so full of optimistic expectations. It's simply amazing to realize the depth of emotion, the hope these people had for their new lives in our country, and the hardships they endured just to get here.

Most of what I've mentioned happens in the first third of the book, as I don't want to give spoilers for the later parts of the story. Suffice it to say that the three sisters go through unexpected ups and downs, but as they learn to trust God in both the good times and bad, they find freedom from the haunting secrets in their past. The story tackles some tough subjects, but it's handled very well, leaving you with an impression of the difficult scenarios without giving too many details. This story of the three sisters' journey and search for a new beginning in life is truly amazing....I very much enjoyed it. Highly, highly recommended!

My Rating: 5 stars

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