Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook
|Listened to the audiobook
Trigger/Content warning: war (off-page), gore, sexism, domestic assault (off-page), mental illness, miscarriage (off-page) depression, starvation, lice, in-school corporal punishment (one scene)
Historical fiction isn’t a genre I normally dip into, but I saw that this book takes place in Chicago, where I currently live, so I picked it up. This story takes place pre- and during World War II and tells of Frankie, a young Italian woman who lives in an orphanage with her sister, also told from the perspective of a ghost named Pearl.
This book takes complete advantage of its unique perspective. Pearl wanders Chicago, relaying to the reader different facets of the hardships faced by Chicagoans during the Great Depression. Though Frankie, her sister, and their friends have tender and even humorous moments during their lives at the orphanage, Ruby does not flinch away from harsh realities, such as fear of the nuns and their stern rules or the ways the Depression affected life in Chicago in general. Pearl also meets other ghosts during her hauntings which tell a variety of stories of those who came before and the challenges they faced. It all felt very well-researched, though I cannot say for sure. What I can say is that this book could not have taken place anywhere but the Windy City.
It also covers many aspects of feminine strength, some of which I had to take pauses. My heart hurt most, I think, when the complexities of Frankie’s family are put to page. Life in the orphanage was hard enough, the distance when their father moves out of Chicago to start a different life in Colorado added another layer. In addition, I could barely handle the scenes when the girls exchanged letters with boys at war, some of which came from the orphanage (like Frankie’s brother, Vito). So much of this book is about survival in several categories, and I really just wanted to give every girl we met throughout the read a hug.
A haunting, beautifully-written piece of historical fiction which cannot be separated from its setting or time period.