October 13, 2020

#BookReview: Stitching a Life by Mary Helen Fein

Synopsis: It’s 1900, and sixteen-year-old Helen comes alone in steerage across the Atlantic from a small village in Lithuania, fleeing terrible anti-Semitism and persecution. She arrives at Ellis Island, and finds a place to live in the colorful Lower East Side of New York. She quickly finds a job in the thriving garment industry and, like millions of others who are coming to America during this time, devotes herself to bringing the rest of her family to join her in the New World, refusing to rest until her family is safe in New York.

A few at a time, Helen’s family members arrive. Each goes to work with the same fervor she has and contributes everything to bringing over their remaining beloved family members in a chain of migration. Helen meanwhile, makes friends and—once the whole family is safe in New York—falls in love with a man who introduces her to a different New York—a New York of wonder, beauty, and possibility.


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
My Review:  
I have to say that the characters in this story were very strong. It was so full of power and feeling and a wonderful journey that needed to be told. I enjoyed the story for the most part but there were just parts that I just kind of felt bored. I felt like this one was very character driven which isn't really a bad thing. But I would have liked to see more from the plot/story.


“In this YA novel, a young Jewish woman and her family flee persecution and seek a better life in the bustle of turn-of-the-century Manhattan. A pleasant read.” ―Kirkus ReviewsStitching a Life is a passionate retelling of one woman’s journey.” ―Readers' Favorite, 5/5 stars “A young adult audience will be drawn to the strong-willed Helen and the obstacles she has to overcome. This novel will also appeal to those interested in the diverse cultural make-up of North America and the early New York garment trade.” ―Historical Novel Society “The heroine of this story is my grandmother as well as the author’s. For years I wondered about her life in Lithuania as a young girl, about her brave journey to America on her own, what her life was like when she got here, and how she met my grandfather. To my shame I never asked her about any of these things. But Mary Helen Fein has brought them all to life for me in wonderful, vivid colors, and now I see her as the young woman who eventually became my beloved old Nana.” ―Julian Barry, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Lenny and many other films “ . . . a perfect introduction to Historical Fiction (in particular the topic of the Jews, WWI and WWII) for children and adults alike! . . . focused on the bravery and the incredible things lots of people achieved.” ―The Book Mermaids “This heartfelt immigration story is far more that the story of a single family. It is the story of America and the birth of what became The American Dream for so many immigrants from all over the world. Mary Helen Fein renders this very big story by showing us the small moments of a family who sought refuge from oppression in the arms of a new and welcoming country. Touching, inspiring, and timely, this story stirs patriotism of the most intimate kind and reminds us of the deepest ideals and of this country.” ―Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, author of Fire & Water and Filling Her Shoes

About the Author

Mary Helen Fein was born in New York City, in 1943. She attended schools in New York and began writing at the age of twelve when her mother died. Writing has ever since been an important part of her life, a way to understand and process life’s events. Mary Helen holds a BA in English literature from Temple University and an MS in computer science engineering from the University of Pennsylvania; she also studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, America’s oldest art school, for two years. Today she lives in Northern California, where she owns her own website design company, writes, paints, and teaches Insight meditation. In 2014, she published her first novel, Loss of Deliverance―the story of a young woman’s adventures in the drug trade during the 1960s.

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