Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner


It’s 1910, and Raisa has just traveled alone from a small Polish shtetl all the way to New York City. She is enthralled, overwhelmed, and even frightened, especially when she discovers that her sister has disappeared and she must now fend for herself. How do you survive in a foreign land without a job, a place to live, or a command of the native language? Perseverance and the kindness of handsome young Gavrel lead Raisa to work in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sewing bodices on the popular shirtwaists . . . until 1911 dawns, and one March day a spark ignites in the factory. Fabric and thread and life catch fire. And he flames burn hot enough to change Raisa—and the entire city—forever.

  • Number or pages: 386

You know, I did a project on this horrible disaster a couple of years ago for a history project. I found facts, causes, stats, and countless of pictures. But this book really opened up my mind; I now understand that these were people with lives that were cut short. All the information I found was very factual and precise, like most things we learn in history. This book gave that same history a story and life.

Raisa’s story starts from her final days in the shtetl where she bids farewell to her friends there. It seemed so wrong to me that these families had to choose between a future and their lives back home. I find Raisa to be super brave. Her goal at the beginning is to go find her older sister who has been living in New York City for some time now. And that’s just what she plans to do. To me it seemed like the boat ride to the States took up only a little part in the book. A lot of things happened in that part, but I found it a very interesting part. I mean, exactly were the living conditions on those things? Makes me shiver just thinking of going on one of those things, and for days! Then of course there is her first couple of experiences in America, her obvious obstacles and such. It shows her actions, the difficulties of being new to a country that is completely different from what one is experienced with. You meet fascinating new characters, each with their own personalities and uniqueness. You really get to be a part of their little, quiet, hardworking lives. You experience things with them.

That’s when the fire hits.

It only last for a chapter or two in the book (where as in real life it last just about a half an hour). Fast, but not fast enough. The loss of lives was devastating as well as a wake up call for the city. The fire was the main event of the book, obviously, but I think it was brilliant how Friesner only put a certain amount of it in the book. It showed just how quick and horrible it all was. I don’t believe this book was written just to depict a disaster, but to show you the people affected by it. It wasn't just about the reasons why it happened, or the numbers of people who perished. It gave those numbers life. Raisa’s story was an inspirational kind of book. From 1-10? I give this great historical fiction a 6.5

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