Monday, August 10, 2015
MMGM: The Girl in the Torch by Robert Sharenow
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Invention of Hugo Cabret meets True Grit in this heartfelt novel of resilience, hope, and discovering a family where you least expect it, from award-winning author Robert Sharenow.
At the dawn of the twentieth century, thousands of immigrants are arriving in the promised land of New York City. Twelve-year-old Sarah has always dreamed of America, a land of freedom and possibility. In her small village she stares at a postcard of the Statue of Liberty and imagines the Lady beckoning to her. When Sarah and her mother finally journey across the Atlantic, though, tragedy strikes—and Sarah finds herself being sent back before she even sets foot in the country.
Yet just as Sarah is ushered onto the boat that will send her away from the land of her dreams, she makes a life-or-death decision. She daringly jumps off the back of the boat and swims as hard as she can toward the Lady's island and a new life.
Her leap of faith leads her to an unbelievable hiding place: the Statue of Liberty itself. Now Sarah must find a way to Manhattan while avoiding the night watchman and scavenging enough food to survive. When a surprising ally helps bring her to the city, Sarah finds herself facing new dangers and a life on her own. Will she ever find a true home in America?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Sharenow lives two dramatically distinct lives. He is a gifted author who has won the admiration of critics and readers with his captivating historical novels for young adults. He is also an Emmy award-winning television producer and is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Lifetime and A&E Network. His debut novel, My Mother the Cheerleader, was named one of the "Best Books of the Year" by the American Library Association, School Library Journal and the New York Public Library and his second novel, The Berlin Boxing Club, received the Sydney Taylor Book Award and was a finalist for the Walden Award. A starred review mainstay, Sharenow's novels have been hailed as "compelling" (Kirkus Reviews), "masterful" Publishers Weekly), "Well-drawn, complex...(and) gripping" (School Library Journal).
The idea of a girl living in the Statue of Liberty intrigued me from the moment I first read about it. I was grateful to obtain a copy of the book and I'd glad to have read it. Sarah is the kind of character that I love to root for, who digs deep inside herself to find a way to survive in America on her own. I found it interesting that Sarah's country of origin isn't ever mentioned but then again it doesn't really need to be, many countries have mistreated their own citizens for a variety of different reasons. Sharenow explains at the end of the book exactly why he chose to write the book that way (he wanted to share a more universal story) before deciding to base Sarah's experiences on those of his own ancestors. The story reads surprisingly quickly. Historical fiction can be a tricky thing to write because the author has to balance the needs of the story and characters with the historical reality. I appreciated Sharenow's explanation at the end where he shares the facts that he changed a bit to fit the needs of the story.
Sarah's resourcefulness is what really makes the story, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the other elements that are intertwined with the stories. Themes of survival, bigotry, courage, and honesty all blend beautifully in this story of a young immigrant girl whose dream of settling in the United States takes a heart-wrenching turn when her mother dies at Ellis Island and she is to be sent to live with a difficult uncle. Sarah jumps off the ship and swims to Lady Liberty where she sleeps in the crown until the night guard discovers her. The glimpse of New York that Sharenow gives the reader offers a look at how life has varied greatly for those coming to America and that the American Dream doesn't just jump into one's lap. A quality historical fiction that gives a thoughtful picture of a particular time and place.