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I think the best thing about Threads and Flames is that Friesner provides oodles of information and context without ever making me feel that I'm reading a book about the plight of immigrants or factory girls and how the injustices they faced lead to the tragedy of the Triangle fire. I was simply reading an engaging story about Raisa's new life in America, complete with a little bit of mystery, a little bit of (the cutest without being the least bit saccharine) romance, and a whole lot of my-gumption-is-both-my-greatest-flaw-and-my-greatest-strength. And yet I finished the book knowing a lot about how the ill-treatment of immigrants in general and factory girls in particular created the perfect storm of awfulness that caused so many deaths in the fire.
While the book is undoubtedly about the Triangle fire, Raisa doesn't even start working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory until at least halfway through the book, maybe more. Usually, this delay of the "point" of the story would drive me batty, but in this instance, I didn't mind the wait. Raisa is such a fun character; she's so headstrong and determined to do what is right for her sisters, both Henda and Brina. It never occurs to her that she shouldn't take responsibility for Brina, even though she can barely take care of herself. I was rooting for her before she even got to Ellis Island. Raisa's little romance with Gavrel is also handled beautifully. When you're reading about Raisa who is on her own and working more than full time to make enough money to cover room and board for two people, it's easy to forget how young she is. Her relationship with Gavrel, however, with all of Raisa's do I or don't I feelings, constantly reminded me that she's just in her early teens. Their romance had all the little flutters of any middle grade romance, but with the added seriousness of two people, no matter how young, who work full time and both immediately start working even more when they "get serious." That's why they're both in the factory on the Saturday when it catches fire.
The fire itself is gruesome. The rush for the elevators after finding all the doors locked, the description of girls jumping from the windows rather than dying the flames, the display of unclaimed bodies that Raisa must search for Gavrel afterwards. The broken families who either found bodies to claim or were left with nothing. It's all so harsh. We see it all through Raisa who is still so determined to do what's right, who finds another job right away, and who becomes the strength and stability that Brina and Gavrel's family need in the fire's aftermath. Watching her continue on was possibly just as, if not more, heartbreaking as the fire itself. Slightly spoilery: When the ending was happier than I would have expected, it did not feel like a cop-out on Friesner's part. I was just happy Raisa got a little bit of what she deserved. End spoiler.
There was recently a request on the yalsa-bk list-serv for fiction books that teach the reader something. I wish I had finished reading this book in time to suggest it! Threads and Flames is so informative, but it's still great fiction too. I highly recommend it!
Book source: Philly Free Library
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2011
...than about the Triangle fire. The story is about the journey of a young girl who leaves her Fiddler On The Roof village, goes through Ellis Island and arrives in America speaking no English. After many, many struggles and obstacles, eventually she manages to get a "good" job with the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, but by that time, it's just one more daily struggle instead of the unspeakable horror Triangle has become infamous for. Excellent book for a young person interested in immigration, Ellis Island, and NYC tenement life, but sometimes I got exhausted just reading about it.
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Posted November 7, 2013
Posted October 11, 2013
I bought this book in a bargain basement store. I wasn't sure if it wasgoing to be anygood,but boy,was I surprised. This story allows you to live the immigrant experience through the eyes of a young girl who is forced to grow up quickly. This book is among my favorites.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2012
Speechless. It's all I can say. Fighting for sisterhood. Fighting for a life with your sister, one you haven't seen in a long time.
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