Customer Reviews for

When We Were Strangers

Average Rating 4
( 129 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(65)

4 Star

(37)

3 Star

(18)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(3)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

28 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

A wonderful immigration tale

If you love a good tale interwoven with both heart-break and dreams, loss and success, you will truly enjoy When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewald.

Irma Vitale is a poverty-stricken young woman of marriageable age who lives in the small village of Opi nestled...
If you love a good tale interwoven with both heart-break and dreams, loss and success, you will truly enjoy When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewald.

Irma Vitale is a poverty-stricken young woman of marriageable age who lives in the small village of Opi nestled in the Abruzzi mountains of Italy. Her brother and closest friend departs for America, hopeful to escape poverty. He tells her he is going to Cleveland and departs soon afterwards. As more and more youths from Opi and neighbouring villages depart for America, Irma's chances at making a good marriage dwindle. Her aging aunt encourages her to go to America, find her brother, and make a better life for herself. And so, with a secret stash of money passed down from mothers to daughters in the family, Irma sets out and boards a ship to America. The reader is then swept into a heart-wrenching and intriguing tale depicting the hardships of immigrants from the crossing to the desperation and struggles they face the moment they take their first steps into the new world.

I could not help but be touched by this story - my own mother and aunts also immigrated alone to the new world from their own small town in the Abruzzi region of Italy for the same reasons and alone, like Irma. I became wholly immersed in this credible tale of poor Irma, finding parallels with the stories my relatives repeated to me of their own shocking experiences. Every detail of this novel felt authentic - from Italian village life, to the struggles with finding work, to being cheated, and finding a friend or two along the way to help.
It is an inspiring tale of strength, determination, and courage, paying homage to the many women who bravely faced the pain of loss of hearth and kin to scrape out a new life in a land brimming with hope. Vivid detail, heart-felt emotion, and highly developed characters make this novel stand out, lending believability and vividness. I loved this novel and it is most definitely one of my all-time favourite books of all time. I highly recommend it!

posted by Mirella on February 20, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Highly Recommend

WOW, what a look into the lives of those who came before us. As one who lived through the women's lib movement I was still amazed at what women in the 1800's had to go through to survive and thrive. A great read for anyone interested in history, women's lives and the im...
WOW, what a look into the lives of those who came before us. As one who lived through the women's lib movement I was still amazed at what women in the 1800's had to go through to survive and thrive. A great read for anyone interested in history, women's lives and the immigrant influx in a rapidly changing and merging society.

posted by LyndaLB on September 6, 2013

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  • Posted September 6, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    WOW, what a look into the lives of those who came before us. As one who lived through the women's lib movement I was still amazed at what women in the 1800's had to go through to survive and thrive. A great read for anyone interested in history, women's lives and the immigrant influx in a rapidly changing and merging society.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2011

    Good. well-written, very well researched.

    Turn of the century immigrant story. Well worth reading and keeps the attention of the reader. This is one of those books that holds your interest even when you are not reading it.

    Downside was the impression that the writer suddenly wanted to hurry and end the book. The hard-scrabble detail was lost in the trip from Chicago to San Francisco where the story ended. The end itself was not disappointing, just the writer's hurry to get there.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 16, 2013

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    Posted June 30, 2011

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    Posted August 5, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2011

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