by Karen Kelly


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With the atmospheric storytelling of Kate Morton and Lisa Wingate, Karen Kelly weaves a shattering debut about two intertwined families and the secrets that they buried during the gilded, glory days of Bethlehem, PA.

A young woman arrives at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, hoping to fortify her deteriorating marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed.

Bethlehem is a multigenerational saga that weaves together the lives of two prominent families during the historic steel boom era of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Inspired by the true titans of the industry, Bethlehem is a mystery, a love story, and a tragedy. It is a story of temptation and regret; a story of secrets and the cost of keeping them; a story of forgiveness. It is the tale of two complex women: the dynamic and beautiful Susannah Parrish Collier and her daughter-in-law, the outsider Joanna Rafferty Collier. Thrown together in the name of family, they will unravel mysteries long hidden and complex that have threatened to tear apart a dynasty.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250201492
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/09/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 66,808
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Karen Kelly has a BA in English from Vanderbilt University, and lives in Edina, Minnesota. She is also the author of Prospice. Her author website is

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Bethlehem 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
wjane 11 months ago
Bethlehem by Karen Kelly is a wonderful story of family, secrets and love that endures. Historical fiction about a family in the 1920‘s to 1960‘s surrounded by romance, tragedy and mystery.. I enjoyed the suspense of the situations involving the characters and how their lives are affected. I loved this book so much I immediately searched for other books by Karen Kelly and purchased her first book. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I appreciate the opportunity and thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read, enjoy and review this book.
JeanK 11 months ago
Karen Kelly presents a story of temptation and forgiveness that alternates between the 1920s and 1962. When Frank Collier’s father dies, he decides to move his wife Joanna and their two children back to Brynmor, the home where he grew up. All of the possessions that reflect Joanna’s personality have been left behind and living with Frank’s mother and grandmother is sometimes uncomfortable. Passing the local cemetery on a walk with the children, Joanna encounters Doe, a friend of the family. Doe’s grandson Daniel has recently moved in to help with the maintenance of the cemetery. Daniel is sympathetic and willing to listen to Joanna and she finds herself drawn to him. Frank’s mother Susannah Parrish grew up at Brynmor with her sister India and brother Kit in the 1920s. The Parrish family was close to the Collier family and the two Collier sons, Chap and Wyatt, spent their time with Susannah and her siblings. From their early childhood, Wyatt has been in love with Susannah. As they grow older and Wyatt goes away to college he makes his intentions clear to Susannah, but in his absence she is drawn to someone else. When tragedy strikes, it is Wyatt who is ther for her and offers his support. Susannah’s past makes her more sympathetic toward Joanna’s situation than she realizes. Her support ultimately helps Joanna see the path that she must take. You watch these two women grow and mature as the story progresses. You are presented with moments of joy as well as sorrow as you feel yourself being drawn into their lives. This is a story that is beautifully written and one that I can highly recommend. I would like to thank NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for providing this book for my review.
Reader4102 11 months ago
While this debut novel is hard to classify and define, it is a read that should be savored for the story-telling abilities of its author, Karen Kelly. The opening chapters where Kelly introduces a plethora of characters are slow going and can be confusing because of the sheer number of characters. However, the bottom line this is about three generations of women, Joanna, a mother of two and the young wife of Frank Collier, Frank’s mother Susannah, and his grandmother, who are all living in the Collier family home. As Joanna struggles with raising her two children alone since her husband is seldom at home, she must also deal with her disappointment at being uprooted from her own home and plunked down with the other two women. The author’s story is developed slowly and with deliberation. Her descriptions of both time and place are precise are well written. The story line, while certainly not new, is unique. If you are looking for a traditional historical story book, this isn’t the book for you because the time line isn’t set in a single year or decade. But if you are looking for a well-written book featuring families, secrets, strong women, with a bit of mystery thrown in for good measure, and some time spent in the 1920s, then this will be a book you’ll want to put at the top of your to-be-read list. My thanks to thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Edelweiss for an eARC.
Patsy-S 11 months ago
Bethlehem by Karen Kelly is a very interesting book. It centers on a group of families connected by the Steel Industry in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. It switches between Bethlehem in the 1920’s and the 1960’s. It may take a few chapters to get the different generations sorted but after you will love the story. You will see how the characters evolve with the times. You also discover those people you feel you had nothing in common with may understand you the most. In the end, you will love going along journey with these families.
GGGeiss 11 months ago
This book, so thoroughly enveloped me, like a cozy blanket. I enjoyed it from start to finish. Karen Kelly is a skilled and fluent writer, able to convey a well constructed tale. This novel is thoughtful, intriguing and heartfelt. I loved every one of the characters, along with some of the well kept secrets and aching longings. I do not write about the story line in my reviews, that can be gleened from the book flap. The intimacies shared, along with the tragedies, wove a truly ruminative narrative. I highly recommend this book. It’s one of the finest I have had the privilege to read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press.
Mimiphilly 11 months ago
Oh, this was gorgeous I loved the switching beween time periods - 20s and 60s. Well written, hauntingly told story - characters you really care about I'd not read any Karen Kelly but would absolutely recommend and will be watching out for more This would make a great book club book and also a fantastic holiday read My thanks to netgalley for ARC - a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review - absolutely loved it
lsmoore_43 11 months ago
This was such a good story. It jumped from the 1960s to the 1918s. It flowed so smoothly and was told in such a way that you really felt you was there in each time frame. Great characters and so well written. I truly enjoyed reading this book. It was a very quick read for me and so enjoyable. This was a first for me by this author and I hope to read more. A 4.5 star book for me and I highly recommend it. Thank you to #NetGalley, #St Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
jbarr5 11 months ago
Bethlehem by Karen Kelly Always been fascinated by the steel industry in our travels. Enjoyed this read from a new author to me for many reasons. I learned new words, love hearing of the location that we've by many times, the mine stories and the history. Drama of the women and who they marry, their lives before and after as they grow older. Secrets kept and pain they do cause over time. Very detailed descriptions I can picture the scenes in my mind. Would like to read more from this author. Received this review copy via the publicist from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley and this is my honest opinion. #NetGalley
lauriesophee 11 months ago
I truly enjoyed this novel about a wealthy family from years passed in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. The chapters span from the 1920's to the 1960's. Though it is a bit hard to follow all that is happening in the beginning of this book, it will all nicely come together as the story progresses. Joanna lives in a beautiful old mansion in Bethlehem Pa with her husband, two children, Mother- in-law and Grandmother in- law. It is not easy! Joanna is not used to a life of privilege. She is not in charge of her own home any longer, but living with two matriarchs who dominate this home. Susannah, her mother-in-law though lovely and polite, is just not a warm and fuzzy woman. Why? As time goes forward, the truth and secrets long buried, will come forth and the family relationships will grow and change. I absolutely loved this quote from the story: "The fact that some skin doesn't show scars does not mean there haven't been wounds." A message to take away, that is true in each person we meet daily.
teachlz 11 months ago
Linda Zagon's review Jul 08, 2019 · edit really liked it Linda's Book Obsession Reviews "Bethlehem" by Karen Kelley, St Martins Press, July 9, 2019 Karen Kelly, Author of "Bethlehem" writes a Fiction novel, with some Historical Background. There are two storylines from around 1918 and 1962, two timelines that eventually connect. There is suspense, secrets, betrayals, romance, and twists and turns. Karen Kelly describes her characters as complex and complicated. The author discusses the importance of family, forgiveness, love, and hope. The Historical part of the story describes the upstart of Bethlehem Steel, and the importance of the use of such materials, as well as the wealth it provided some families. The story is also described in the cemetery and the caretakers who know the history of the town. I would recommend this suspenseful and surprising novel.
Anonymous 6 months ago
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bookmon1 9 months ago
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for letting me read and review this wonderful novel. BETHLEHEM centers around connected families and Bethlehem Steel. The chapters alternate between 1924 and 1962. Susannah was beautiful and popular in 1924. She makes choices that have ripple effects during that time and into the future. Joanna is dealing with her own problems and secrets in 1962. She and her mother-in-law, Susannah, form bounds that allow them to move on. Author Karen Kelley has written and emotionally appealing historical novel that is bound to resonate with readers on many levels. Her research into the two eras is evident and makes the tale quite authentic. This is my first time to read a Karen Kelly novel, but it won't be my last.
Caroldaz 9 months ago
This will be a good beach read, light reading, nice characters and a good story. It did start fairly slow but when I reached the halfway point, it became much more enjoyable. Joanna and her husband Frank move in with his wealthy in-laws after his father dies. The house is occupied by Frank’s mother and grandmother. As you can imagine this is not an easy situation for Joanna. There are secrets from the past that affect them all. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
TUDORQUEEN 10 months ago
I was offered this widget many months ago from one of my favorite publishers, St. Martin's Press. Otherwise, it wouldn't have caught my eye to procure for a read. Still, I accepted the option to read it, and it languished on my "Want to Read" shelf waiting for its turn (in publishing date order). In the meantime, I'd read lukewarm to failing reviews, already building up a resistance in my mind to reading it. However, as I delved into it with trepidation, the pages gently turned in a quiet fashion, and I exhaled in relief knowing I was in for a decent read. The story is told in dueling timelines of the early 1920's and 1960's, weaving together the history and secrets of a wealthy family. The locale is Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a grand and imposing mansion called Brynmor. It borders a cemetery where a mysterious tiny gravestone marked "Baby Hayes" provides a poignant distraction throughout the book. The family's wealth derived from the Bethlehem Steel Company. It's 1962, and in the wake of his father's passing, Frank Collier has taken the reigns of the Bethlehem Steel Company. His new work responsibilities have taken him away on business trips, leaving his wife Joanna and young children Daisy and Charlie by themselves. Frank resolves that his young family should move into the massive edifice Brynmor, since his mother Susannah and grandmother Helen are now by themselves in the mansion. It makes sense for his loved ones to live together in the mansion, but Joanna feels adrift and marginalized in a space that's not her own. It's not her chosen decorations like she had in their own modest home, and she's certainly not used to servants. On Joanna's first day exploring the property she happened upon an old, eccentric woman called Doe who spoke of grandmother Helen as if she was a dear sister, and not an employer. Doe and her husband Nico handled the maintenance of the cemetery that adjoined the Brynmor property, and now her grandson Daniel had taken over the brunt of the hard work. On that first day when Joanna's children noticed the "Baby Hayes" grave, Doe immediately changed the subject. As often is the case with lovers of historical fiction, I preferred the chapters from the 1920's where the groundwork of the story was built. The glamour and privilege of debutante / coming of age balls, delicious details of luxurious gowns, hairstyles, etc. was a pleasure to read. The recounting of the lives from childhood to the present with their lovers angst and inconvenient loyalties provided the tension leading up to the mystery of the unidentified baby. It wasn't difficult figuring out the identity of this baby about halfway through the book, but this didn't take anything away from my interest in having the story deliciously unfold. This isn't a story that scooped me up on an exciting ride, but is more of what I call a "gentle read" that was neither a frenetic page-turner nor a worthless bore... but simply a good read. Thank you to St. Martin's Press who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.
bookaholique 10 months ago
Joanna agrees to move to Bethlehem, PA with her husband and two young children. The real kicker is that she also agree to move into her husband's family home and live with her husband's mother Susannah and grandmother Helen. Joanna struggles to find her footing. Her husband works a lot of hours, her in laws are a bit old school and standoffish and her children do not really need much attention. With many lonely hours to fill, she makes friends with a male neighbor. She also starts to uncover some family secrets. This is told in alternating chapters of Helen's growing up years and Joanna's current life in Bethlehem. I found both stories to be intriguing. I started off liking Joanna but not Susannah. By the end of the story, my attitude changed towards Susannah. I found both woman's story to be sad, but also a testimony to perseverance. I thought this was a well thought out debut and look forward to future books from Ms. Kelly. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley.
AmyGoBucks 10 months ago
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Bethlehem travels between two generations of Bethlehem steel families, one in the 1920s and the other in the 1960s. Karen Kelly weaves the stories together seamlessly and builds the relationships of friendship and love in both times. Secrets from one generation impact the next and build bonds among people that, at first, seem unexpected. It’s easy to become wrapped up in this book, wanting to know more, to learn the truth. Kelly’s literary debut satisfies a book lover’s yearn to keep turning pages while at the same time providing fitting closure at the end. Now that I’ve been to Karen Kelly’s Bethlehem, I will definitely recommend it to others. I also look forward to reading any future books she writes.
ShihTzuMama 10 months ago
The epic history of families inextricably linked that follows generations of family members as it unearths long buried secrets of love, loss and healing. Set in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and spanning over forty years, author Karen Kelly has created three families, the Colliers, the Parrishs and the Janssens whose men and women are blessed with good looks, copious charisma and futures that appear to hold unlimited promise. It is their stories of devotion, yearning and lies, that are so perfectly drawn, the reader will find themselves unable to extricate themselves from the fascinating series of events that make these often lost and lonely souls easy to relate to and difficult to forget.
MarziesReads 10 months ago
3.25 Stars Bethlehem, the debut novel by Karen Kelly, is an ambitious, multigenerational novel set in the glory days of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, site of Bethlehem Steel Corporation. At one time the BSC was the second largest steel producer in America and one of the great innovators in beam structures used to advance the building of skyscrapers. They were also major producers of ordinance used in WWI and WWII. The novel, which cuts back and forth between 1918-25 (Susannah's early years) and 1962 (Joanna's story intersecting with Susannah's), tells the story of family secrets, deceptions, and illicit love during the Great War period to the lead up of the Great Depression. While the novel presents two interesting periods of in American history, I found it oddly paced (the first half is quite slow) and wanted more from the story, particularly more from Joanna's character. (I felt it was clear that Susannah was Kelly's favorite child?) I would have enjoyed a family tree, at least at the end, to help track family connections, as there are quite a few characters, a number with nicknames. While some aspects of the plot are haunting in terms of the choices we make and live with, in recent years I've sadly been spoiled by reading very polished historical fiction novels by writers like Martha Hall Kelly, Kate Quinn, and Susan Meissner and Kelly's writing suffers in comparison. Nevertheless, Kelly shows great promise and in tighter editorial hands, I'm sure she will continue to grow as a writer. I'll definitely pick up her next novel. Memorable quote: "The fact that some skin doesn't show scars does not mean there haven't been wounds." - Joanna Collier. I received a Digital Review Copy from St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 10 months ago
1962 Joanna, her husband, Frank, and their two children Charlie, 6, and Daisy, 5, have moved into Brynmor, Frank's family’s home. His mother, Susannah, and grandmother, Helen, also live there. The Collier family is very wealthy and heavy into Bethlehem Steel. Joanna had been a nurse when she met Frank. Her family is a modest Catholic one and she married into the Collier Episcopal family. Living with her mother-in-law and Frank working late every night is difficult for Joanna. She has little say in how things are done and even her children’s birthday party plans are taken from her hands. In her walks around town, Joanna meets Doe Janssen, the cemetery custodian of the graveyard. Her home is called Grange House located in the cemetery and they have lived there for 50 years. Doe is a delightful woman and Joanna enjoys spending time with her. Soon, Doe’s grandson, Daniel, comes to live with her to help out with the work in the cemetery. He and Joanna begin a friendship and she is happy to have found a friend to supplement her lonely life. This book switches back and forth in time to when Susannah and her sister were young and how life was during that time. We learn of her true love and of the man she is expected to marry. At first, I felt like this book dragged but it finally started spilling long-kept secrets. As Joanna learns the secrets, she realizes that she and her mother-in-law aren’t so different after all. A good story that I think readers will enjoy. The privileges and expectations of the wealthy of that time period is laid out well. Enjoy! Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
JReppy 11 months ago
This was a good book. You will have to pay attention closely in the beginning because you are introduced to a lot of characters in quick succession and it can be somewhat tricky to remember who are the friends and who are the relatives/family members. The book focuses on the Collier and Parrish families in Bethlehem, PA -- Hollins Parrish ran Bethlehem Steel and Charles Collier was the head engineer and their families were inseparable, with Wyatt Collier and Susannah Parrish ultimately marrying. The book alternates between the 1920s when the children were teenagers/young adults and 1962, when Susannah's son, Frank, and his family have returned to the family home following the sudden death of Wyatt Collier. Frank's wife, Joanna, is not used to the lifestyle in which Frank grew up and she is not entirely comfortable living in a home that already has two mistresses of the house -- Susannah and her mother Helen. With Frank out of town for prolonged periods with work and the children in school, Joanna finds herself drawn to the local cemetery, and Daniel, one of the caretakers. The characters are well-crafted and engaging; in fact, Susannah's siblings, Kit and India, could easily be subjects of short books themselves detailing their adventurous adult lives. The plot progresses steadily and alternating between time periods works well in this book (not something that all authors can manage well). Some of the events of the book are predictable, but there are a fair share of surprises as well. The book deals with family secrets and how keeping secrets, even if done with good intentions, can have life-altering effects. It also addresses the depth of sacrifice some people are willing to make for the ones they love. The ending of the book is incredibly powerful. I received a copy of the e-book via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
CynB 11 months ago
Bethlehem, by Karen Kelly, is a family saga that is situated in Bethlehem, PA, home to Bethlehem Steel. It focuses on two prominent and intertwined families, two time periods, and two women. In the 1960’s, Joanna moves with her husband and two children into the ancestral home of her in-laws, including her mother-in-law, Susannah. In the 1920’s, we meet the young Susannah, a debutante and a young woman in love. Both women are complex, mysterious, and struggle to figure out what values and whose needs are most important. Although there is a mystery that is resolved, this story is driven almost entirely by the character study of the two women. Unfortunately, the complexity of these two women is somewhat obscured by the deluge of minor characters and the pace of the first half. While Kelly writes beautifully and evokes the landscape of Bethlehem and Lehigh University (where I once taught), location does not seem to matter all that much to the plot. Also, it is noteworthy that the 20’s and 60’s were both times of great social, political, and economic upheaval that deeply impacted the lives of women. Yet, neither woman seemed to be touched. I am not sure I would characterize this novel as historical fiction. Nonetheless, I recommend this novel. Joanna and Susannah will stay with me for a long time. They reinforce the message that our lives are often determined by random events which we control only in the way we respond. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.
KerryACroucier 11 months ago
A Dazzling Debut! With a dual timeline focusing on two strong female characters, the family saga focuses on the intertwined Parish and Collier families. Beginning in 1960, Joanna and Frank Collier and their two children move into Frank’s family home after his father’s death, joining his mother and grandmother. Joanna is from a working-class family and has a tough time adjusting to the wealth of her husband’s steel-magnate family. In her explorations, she befriends the cemetery caretaker and her grandson, finding a bit of normalcy and a few secrets, which send us back in time to find more about the family history. A slow-burning story, you won’t realize you are hooked until you can’t put it down. This is a well-written story with characters that are realistic and intricately drawn. A novel of family, secrets, love, and more tragedy than I expected, the wrap up was beautiful and heart-breaking. #Bethlehem #KarenKelly #StMartinsPress
bamcooks 11 months ago
*Between 3 and 3.5 stars This is a family saga set in Bethlehem, PA and centers around three generations of matriarchs, grandmother, mother, and daughter-law, which is told in two alternating timelines: 1918 and 1962. The story gets off to a rather slow start, which is perhaps its greatest flaw. I was surprised there wasn't a more dramatic lead-in to the story before plunging into the mundane everyday lives. About midway through, I was pleased to find myself totally immersed in the story so I was glad I had the patience to hang in there. Lots of trials and tribulations, and what some may call a bit of melodrama, but with a strong cast of supporting characters to see them through with unconditional love: "I'm never here to judge you; I'm only here to help you." I found myself liking these women very much. I received an arc of this book from the publisher via netGalley for an honest review. Many thanks for the opportunity.
CatesBookshelf 11 months ago
As a nearly lifelong resident of the Lehigh Valley I was extremely excited to see a book that takes place in my back yard! I will say, there were a few times I was disappointed in some geographical inaccuracies, but the actual story was fascinating. I found myself getting lost in and consumed by the stories and characters.
Aqswr 11 months ago
Moody and romantic, this historical fiction moves on two timelines that dovetail neatly to provide inspiration and closure for two families intertwined across generations. Author Karen Kelly does a good job recreating both time periods, 1962 and 1918, and her principal characters are engaging and absorbing. The only stumbling blocks for me were the inclusion of extra family members who were only walk-on characters, at best, and oh so many nicknames! I realize the habits of this particular social group is to nickname themselves like crazy but with the addition of so many needless walk-ones, I almost lost sight of the plot. The book gets really good about half way through and becomes impossible to put down at that point. Don’t give up on the slow start, it’s worth the effort. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.