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By CINDY THOMSON, Kathryn S. Olson
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2013Cindy Thomson
All rights reserved.
"May I take your photograph, miss?"
Grace McCaffery spun around. She had passed through the inspections without a problem and was on her way downstairs, where she would meet the aid society worker. What now?
"A photograph?" A man stood smiling at her, next to a large camera. She'd only seen one of these machines before, and that was on the ship.
"Why?" She bit her lip. Was everything about to fall apart now?
"For prosperity. It's your first day in America." He handed her a small piece of paper. "My name and address, should you later wish to see it. It will only take a moment of your time, and then you are free to continue on."
Free sounded good. "What do I do?"
"Stand under that window—" he pointed toward one of the massive windows—"and look this way." Streams of late-afternoon sun shone in through the ornamental ironwork, tracing odd shapes on the tiled floor.
She did as he asked.
"Now look up, miss." He snapped his fingers. "Look toward the camera."
Her eyelids were iron weights, but she forced herself to look his way, wanting to get it over with.
After she heard a slight pop coming from the camera, he dismissed her. "Welcome to America!"
America! Ma should see Ellis Island and all the people milling about. Grace sat down on a bench just to the right of the stairs to collect the thoughts rambling around in her head like loose marbles. Imagine, a girl like her, now free in America. She would not have envisioned it herself a few weeks ago. Exhausted, she dropped her face to her hands as she relived what had led her here.
* * *
"Must go to the workhouse." Huge hands snatched wee Grace from her bed. "Your da is dead. Behind in your rent and got no means."
Grace kicked with all her might. "Ma!"
An elbow to her belly. Burning. She heaved.
"Blasted kid!" The policeman tossed her onto a wagon like garbage.
"I'm here, Grace. Don't cry." Her mother cradled her as the wagon jolted forward. "Oh, my heart. You are special, wee one. So special to God."
Heat emanated from the burning cottage, the temperature torturing Grace's face. She hid against her mother's shoulder.
Later, they were pulled apart and herded into a building.
A dark hallway. The sound of water dripping.
Stairs. Up the stairs. Following other children. So many children. Was her mother dead?
* * *
The sound of heels clacking down steps brought Grace back to the present. She sat up straight and watched hordes of people march down the stairs. They were divided into three groups according to destination.
She knew her mother had loved her, but God? Her mother had been wrong about that. God loved good people like Ma. Not Grace. Grace knew she was not good enough for God.
So many of the people passing in front of her were mere children, most with parents but some without. Grace wondered if they were as afraid as she had been when she was separated from her mother in the workhouse, the place Irish folks were taken to when they had nowhere else to go. All these people now seemed to have a destination, though. A new start. Like her. In America she hoped she could mend her fumbling ways and merit favor.
A wee lass approached the stairs with her hand over her mouth, the registration card pinned to her coat wrinkled and stained with tears. Grace was about to go to her and tell her everything would be fine. After all, this great hall, this massive building, was not in Ireland. They were in the land of the free. They'd just seen Lady Liberty's glowing copper figure in the harbor, hadn't they?
But the lass, obviously having mustered her courage, scrambled down the steps and into the mass of people. Would the child be all right? No mother. No parents at all. It had happened to Grace. Free one day, sentenced by poverty the next.
She pulled her hand away from her own mouth. In the workhouse she'd had this nightmare and cried out. She'd been whipped.
Not ever again.
She struggled to remember the song her mother sang to her at bedtime. "Thou my best thought by day or by night ..." She couldn't remember any more of it. She'd forgotten. The truth was, she didn't know if everything would be all right.
She rose and followed the orders she'd been given right before the photographer had approached her. Down the steps to the large room where the lady from the charity would meet her.
She rubbed her free hand along the handrail as she walked, barely able to believe she was in another country now, far across the Atlantic Ocean. If it hadn't been for the miserable voyage in steerage, the stench from sweaty, sick passengers that remained even now, and wobbling knees weak from too little food, she might believe she was dreaming. Had it really been just a few weeks ago when she'd sat opposite the workhouse master's desk and twisted the edge of her apron between the fingers of her right hand as he spoke to her?
"Eight years you've been here, Grace," he'd said.
"Aye." She'd stopped counting.
"You are a young woman now, with some potential to be productive. Yet there is no employment in this country of yours. Nothing you can do." He was British and had little patience for the Irish.
She'd held her head low.
"And so, Grace, you've been sponsored to leave the workhouse and go to America." He dipped the nib of his pen in an inkwell and scribbled, not looking up.
"What do you mean, sir?"
"America. You leave from Dublin in two days. I've got your papers in order. And this." He pushed an envelope toward her.
She remembered that at the time she'd worried about her fingernails when she'd held out her hand. She looked at them now. Grime on the ship had taken its toll. The master would not like that.
He is not here.
She touched that very same envelope now, crinkled in her apron pocket. It contained the name of the ship, the destination, and at the bottom, Sponsored by S. P. Feeny.
She mumbled under her breath. "Ma married him for this." To provide a future for Grace.
The line of people moved slowly. Grace sucked in her breath. Not long now.
She turned and watched a red-faced lad scurry down the steps and into the open arms of his mother, who reprimanded him for wandering away.
Grace had begged to speak to her own mother the day the workhouse master told her she was going to America. He hadn't sent for her because her mother was no longer an inmate, but a free woman married to that lawman, that peeler named Sean Patrick Feeny.
But Grace's mother had come anyway, not to the workhouse but to the docks.
"Hurry along," the immigration worker urged her now.
Grace thought about S. P. Feeny's note again as she entered a room packed with people. Not knowing whether the charity lady would need to see it, she reached into her pocket and pulled it out. She glanced around and found a vacant spot on a bench.
"Wait until you hear your name called," a man in a brown suit said to the crowd.
There were more workers in that place than she expected. In Ireland only a handful of employees kept the inmates in line. She reminded herself again that she was in America. People care about folks here, now, don't they?
She opened the note and reread the part at the end, the words her mother's husband had scrawled there.
Your mother wants you out of the workhouse. With no other options, I have arranged for you to go to America, where you will find work and no doubt prosper. Pin this to your dress for the journey. It is the name of a man my connections say will take good care of you in New York and arrange a job. I have written him to let him know when you will arrive. S. P.
The immigration official upstairs had told her not to expect this man to meet her, but rather someone who worked for him, mostly likely a woman from an immigrant aide society. "Don't worry," he'd told her. "They'll have your name."
As much as Grace wanted to crumple up the paper and toss it away, she dared not. Following directions had been essential to getting along in the workhouse, and she had no reason to abandon that thinking now. She had managed to survive back there, even though she was apart from her mother, who had worked out of Grace's sight until she got married and left the workhouse altogether. Surviving was a victory and perhaps the best she could have hoped for then.
She glanced down at the writing again. S. P. Feeny was a peeler, a policeman, like those who tore Grace and her mother from their home when Grace was but ten years old. Grace had thought her life was as good as over when she heard about the marriage. But now she was in America.
She blinked back tears as she thought about her unknown future. What if her father had been right when, so long ago, he'd told her she needed him to survive, could not do it alone? His death had forced them into the workhouse, and she had survived without him then, hadn't she? But now? Now she really was alone and she was not sure she could endure. And yet, she must.
She mentally rehearsed her instructions, the ones Feeny had written down. She'd done what she'd been told so far.
Now she was supposed to wait. But how long?
Running her fingers down her skirt to wipe away perspiration, she hoped she would not say the wrong thing when this stranger claimed her. Would they understand her in America? Did she speak proper English well enough? As much as her stomach churned, she mustn't appear sick, even though the doctor had already hurriedly examined her along with her fellow passengers. She'd heard stories. They sent sick people to a hospital and often they were never heard from again. Perhaps they executed the ones who didn't die. Or they put them back on the ship to return to Ireland. As bad as it was facing an unknown future in America, at least there was hope here that could not be found in the workhouse. So long as they let her stay.
She glanced over at a family. Mother, father, son, and daughter clung to each other. They would make it. Together they had strength. Grace had no one.
Soon a crowd of tall men jabbering in a language she didn't understand entered the room. Grace squeezed the note in her hand. As much as she didn't want S. P. Feeny's help, she'd needed a sponsor to start this new life. She had no choice but to trust his instruction. If there is one thing a policeman like Feeny knows, it's the rules. Whether or not they abide by them is another matter.
"Where you from?" a tawny-haired lass sitting next to her asked.
"County Louth." She thought it best not to mention the workhouse.
The girl nodded.
Good. She didn't seem to want to ask anything else.
After a few moments, sensing the girl's nervousness, not unlike her own, Grace gave in. "And you? Where are you from?"
The girl sat up straight. "County Down."
"Oh. Not far." Grace swallowed hard. They were both far from home.
An attendant stood on a box and raised his voice. "Mary Montgomery? Miss Mary Montgomery, please."
The girl next to Grace stood and went to him.
"I'm afraid there's been a mistake, miss."
A brief moment later the lass was gone from the room. Escorted off somewhere. Grace turned to the men seated behind her. "Where are they taking her?"
They shrugged. Only one of them met her gaze. "Don't be worrying, lass. Could be she's in the wrong place. Could be her family didn't come to claim her. Could be 'bout anything, don't you know?"
Grace tried to breathe, but the room felt hot and noisy. "You can do this," she heard her mother say from the recesses of her mind.
In the workhouse, everyone was the same— wore matching gray uniforms, used identical spoons, slurped the same watery stirabout, marched together from dining hall to dormitory at the same exact time day after day, month after month, year after year. It was a routine she could count on.
She glanced around at the faces near her. Square jaws, rounded chins. Black hair, locks the color of spun flax. Brightly colored clothing, suits the color of mud. So many differences. And so many tongues. Where she'd come from, there had been no question of how to act, what to say, who to look at. But here?
She turned and kept her eyes on her feet and the trim of the red petticoat her mother had given her to travel in when she'd met her at the docks.
Oh, Ma! When Grace had been able to look into her mother's green-gray eyes, she found assurance. On the ship, Grace had tried to emblazon her mother's face on her memory so it would always be there when she needed to see it. She'd even sketched her mother on some paper with a charcoal pencil another passenger gave her. She had the sketch in her bag with her meager belongings. Not much, but all she had now.
"Thanks be to God." "God have mercy." "God bless our souls." "The grace of God on all who enter." ... Her mother never failed to acknowledge God. She was a good woman. The best. Grace was so far away now from that umbrella of assurance.
She focused on the immigration official calling out names. Survival was human instinct, and humans adapted. She'd learned to do it once before. Perhaps she could manage to exorcise her father's voice from her head, the one that told her she was incapable, and actually make a life, a good life, for herself in America.
Grace's mother had held her at arm's length when they said good-bye on the docks in Dublin. She'd rubbed Grace's cheeks with her thumbs. "The best thing for you is to go to America. You are not a child anymore. I could not let you stay in the workhouse. Don't I know how hard it is for a grown woman to keep her dignity there."
Grace had tried pleading with her. "Take me home with you. I'll be polite to S. P.... I promise."
But her mother wouldn't hear of it. "There's no life here for you, Grace. Fly free, Daughter. Find your way. 'Tis a blessing you can go."
Grace had told her mother she couldn't do it. Not alone. Not without her.
"Listen to me," her mother had said, tugging Grace's chin upward with her finger. "I don't care what lies your father once spoke to you, darlin'. To us both. Pity his departed soul that he left us with no choice but the workhouse. But promise me you will not think of the things he said to you. Remember instead this: You are smart. You are important. You are able."
If she could prosper as her mother had asked her to, then perhaps her mother might choose to come to America too, a place where she would not need S. P. Feeny. Grace would make it happen. Somehow. She had to. Her hands trembled as she held tight to her traveling bag.
* * *
Grace's face grew hot. She lifted a shoulder to her chin, hoping her embarrassment didn't show. She didn't want to speak to a peeler— or whatever they called them in America. But she was stuck, shoved into a hot electric-powered car with more people than she thought it should safely hold. The man had addressed her and asked her a question. She had to respond. She spoke toward her feet. "I am well. I come from County Louth."
The large man leaned down toward her. "You say you are from County Louth, miss?"
"Is that so?" He let loose a low whistle. "My people come from Tullamore. We might be neighbors or cousins or something."
The woman with Grace, who'd introduced herself as Mrs. Hawkins, chuckled. "You're all cousins, love, all of you from ole Erin."
Grace was no kin to men like that, and if she were, she would disown them straight away. These are the men who force poor families from their homes and send them to workhouses the minute they can't pay rent.
There was a lull in the conversation as the car pulled them through an intersection. She heard the peeler's breath catch. She dared to look at him. He was staring out at the street. He did not seem formidable at all and perhaps was even a little uneasy riding on the streetcar. Odd, that.
Grace glanced back down, studying the shoes surrounding her, trying to focus on the future instead of dwelling on the past. She was in the "Land of Opportunity," after all. She hoped not to associate with folks she didn't care to.
She clutched the bag containing her treasured drawing pencil, wee pad of paper, and a small card bearing the address of that Ellis Island photographer, Mr. Sherman, who had taken her photograph.
Excerpted from Grace's Pictures by CINDY THOMSON. Copyright © 2013 by Cindy Thomson. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story begins as Grace McCaffrey arrives at Ellis Island. Her life in Ireland has not been easy, but she hopes for a new beginning in New York. She learns to take pictures with her new camera, and unexpectedly finds her self in a mess of trouble—with a gang, no less. Did she take a photo that could incriminate a gang leader? What adds to her already dire circumstances is she finds it difficult (because of her past) to trust others—especially the police. Enter Owen McNulty—a police officer intent on fighting crime and cleaning up dangerous street gangs. (heh heh) Can he convince Grace to trust him? Will romance blossom? This lovely tapestry is interwoven with threads of Christianity, history, and resiliency. It’s rich with descriptive scenes, romance and growth. I’ve little doubt you will enjoy Grace’s Pictures.
My review in two sentences: The gorgeous cover on Grace's Pictures is perfect for the story within. Grace McCaffery is an entirely appealing heroine, and her story is told so descriptively! This book captures the timidity and fear of an new immigrant just come through Ellis Island, as well as the boldness and spirit needed to make a new life in America. Grace comes to America with burdens to carry. Her young life in Ireland has included much suffering. A harsh father whose death sold her into the workhouse has left her believing that God doesn't love people like her. Her father considered her worthless, but her mother tells her she is smart, and strong and able. Grace has a hard time seeing those qualities in herself. Grace's ambition is to work hard and earn enough money to free her mother from her second marriage, a marriage she entered so that Grace could be sent to America. Grace's rule for herself is to never trust policemen, for it was policemen who tore her from her mother and took her to the workhouse. However, Grace never planned on meeting such a kindly police officer as Owen McNulty. Nor did she plan to fall in love with photography and purchase a one-dollar Brownie camera. And she never planned to cross the gang "the Dusters." From there is the story of Grace's Pictures. This book is a delightful combination that intrigued me on may levels: I am part Irish, I am fascinated by police work, my best friend is a photographer, and I love historical novels. Grace's Pictures is delightfully long and wonderfully descriptive, written in the just the right tone for Grace and at just the right pace for this period in history. I made a mistake in beginning Grace's Pictures so late in the evening the day it came, because once I started I did not want to close this book. I am happy to announce that this book has a home in my library, and this is a new series that I am eagerly watching for. I am very blessed to have received an ARC from Cindy Thomson and Tyndale House to review early.
Mary dose not like it and you can post books back if you like
I liked this story a lot. It brought the perspective of a poor immigrant who has a desire to take photographs. The characters are well developed and move with the story. I think it is a fun easy read that anyone can enjoy.
"Well, expect some kits." He slipped out.
Finally a different time here in the USA, at the cusp of technology. A female character with concerns & doubts who finds others that trust in God & maybe she should too. Liked that she became stronger, but it sure took her awhile.
A nice enjoyable read -- The title, and the cover, of this book drew me in because I, like Grace, love to take pictures and I once had a Brownie, only it was at least 50 years newer than Grace's. I really enjoyed the story and Cindy gave a look into the future with it. The idea of a photo being taken and then used to identify a crook or to use as evidence against someone was a stepping stone to where we are now with phone's that will take pictures, record voices and even movies that can be used for the same thing and even to manipulate people into doing things they don't want to do or to keep a secret you don't want anyone to find out about.
Grace's Pictures is about a young Irish woman who immigrates to America. She arrives in New York City trying to fit in a busy city. She finds herself buying herself a Brownie camera. Which leads her to trouble. I liked Grace's Pictures. I liked seeing what my Irish ancestors went through when they first come to their new American home. I love the historical value of the story. I found I really like the character of Grace. Such a strong young woman. I would give this book 4 and half stars.
Plot: The plot of this book was actually interesting. It had so much in it that I wasn't expecting. It had several dimensions to it that gave the story depth. Characters: You really did get to see Grace transform throughout this story. From the little girl in Ireland to the confident woman in America, she literally transforms as you read this story. Themes: The main theme in this book is trust. Grace had to learn how to trust the police even after her experiences as a child. She also had to learn how to trust God and that He would make a way for her. Emotion: The characters themselves had a lot of emotion, however, it didn't really translate off the pages of the book. Overall: I have to admit that I didn't think I was going to like this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. There were so many elements to it that it was enjoyable to read and it wasn't overly romantic and predictable. It was actually, quite unpredictable and kept me guessing the whole way through. ---I received this book for free from the publisher for this review.---
Cindy Thomson in her new book “Grace’s Pictures” Book One in the Ellis Island series published by Tyndale House Publishers takes us into the life of Grace McCaffery. From the back cover: “Listen to me,” her mother had said. “I don’t care what lies your father once spoke to you, darlin’. . . . Remember instead this: You are smart. You are important. You are able.” Grace McCaffery hopes the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness. I admire all that came to America as immigrants. They gave up their homeland and came here to start over mostly not knowing anyone over here and never having been here before. They certainly had a spirit of adventure. Despite the fact that Grace is timid she is an immigrant and has that sense of adventure. We take pictures left and right now practically everywhere we go but back in the 1900′s taking pictures was an entirely new thing and not everyone wanted their picture taken. Grace takes a picture of a gang leader and, since this is the only picture ever taken of him, the gang wants to destroy it. Owen is the cop who wants to help Grace however she has a distrust of cops and wants nothing to do with him. ”Grace’s Pictures” is about friendship, love, betrayal, healing from past wounds and finding your place in the world. This is a fun read filled with adventure and romance. I do not recommend starting this book late at night because it will cost you sleep as you will not want to put it down. Ms. Thomson has given us an excellent beginning to this wonderful series and I am looking forward to the next one. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Wow was this book boring. The characters were dull, dim witted and most of them hard to like. There was no suspense, no love story, nothing but meaningless words. This is my first book and probably the last by this author.
Good BookGrace came to America to escape Ireland and try to have a better life. She had to get over her fear of policemen and allow them to help her after finding herself in the middle of the mob when she accidently took pictures of them when trying to find the "perfect shot" with her new camera. The book was good, it had more history then romance.
To be totally honest, I had mixed feelings about Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson while I read it, and I’m still having difficulty deciding what I feel now—even as I write this review. Initially, I thought I would absolutely love the book. The descriptions of Grace’s initial experiences in America—New York City, Ellis Island, the immigration process, and trying to find her “place” in this new country—were incredible. It felt so realistic to me. The story moved quickly at first, as Grace finds a place to live, is introduced to other immigrants, and is given a job as a nanny. However, partway into the book, the story began to drag, and my interest wavered. Part of my struggle was that the two main characters (Grace and Owen) had little interaction with each other. That went on for so long that there eventual “relationship” seemed a bit forced to me. Additionally, the mobster story that took center stage for much of the book was just odd and extremely confusing to me at times. Finally, Grace constantly repeated a saying that her mother told her as a child: “You are smart. You are important. You are able.” Ring any bells? It’s VERY close to the line that is repeated through the 2009 best seller The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” It was a little too close, in my opinion. While not my favorite, this book does present a very well-rounded story. You get to see Grace and Owen’s lives as a 360 picture, rather than merely one- or two-dimensional. Their home life, work life, family, friends, and past all play important parts of their story, which was nice to see. [3.5 stars] I received a temporary e-copy copy of this book from Tyndale House via Net Galley in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Recently arrived in America from Ireland, Grace is so very suspicious of everyone. She also continually finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. This book was interesting because the plight of the immigrant was so vividly portrayed, but sometimes it seemed like too much happened to one poor Irish girl. But, it was an easy summer read that I enjoyed.
Grace's Pictures is an in depth look at what life was like for an Irish immigrant in the early 1900's. The author did such a good job of making me feel like I was back in that time. I found myself feeling frustrated that Grace had such a mistrust of the police. However, with an understanding of her background in Ireland, it made perfect sense. I really enjoyed Owen's character. As a rich young man who made the decision to become a policeman and help clean up the streets of the poorest neighborhoods, he was a strong character in the story. Grace is scared and distrustful as she arrives in America. Eventually, she becomes the nanny in a household with plenty of strange issues of its own and begins to find her place within this family, taking care of children who desperately need love. Grace also begins taking snapshots with her new Brownie camera and inadvertently finds herself in a heap of trouble as local gangsters target her when they believe she has taken their pictures. I enjoyed this story, however, I was expecting the romance to develop between Owen and Grace more throughout the whole story. This book does have a hint of romance, but the major storyline is about Grace making her way in America and Owen trying to rid the city of gangsters and crooked cops. An overall enjoyable read. I am thankful to have received this book for free in a giveaway on Cara Putman's blog.
Grace's Pictures is a charming read that takes place on Ellis Island during the early 1900s. Admittedly, it took me a few chapters to really get into the story but when I did, I had to know what was going to happen. Grace is an Irish lass who has quite a lot of trust issues and who seems very lost in New York. She is a very timid person, and I am quite the opposite so her personality and past aren't exactly something I can relate to. Still, her character is sweet and she changes by the end of the book. A plus for me was learning a bit about early photography and the Kodak Brownie camera. History stuff makes me happy. If you're looking for an easy, cozy read this summer, I think you'll like this one.
Grace McCaffery is a recent immigrant to New York from Ireland in 1900. She had an abusive father and was torn from her loving mother to live in a workhouse and was recently sponsored to come to the United States to have a better life. She struggles with the unfamiliarity of her new life, has some serious trust issues, and struggles to believe that she is special in any way. In New York she meets a cast of characters ranging from mostly trustworthy to some dangerous crooks who think her new photography hobby is infringing on their crimes (they are correct). I was very torn in writing this review. I know there are many who will love it, so I'm certainly not wanting to discourage anyone from reading it. I was eager to read this book; however, I just couldn't fall in love with Grace or the writing style no matter how hard I tried. I did appreciate the historical detail, especially on several different topics that I haven't typically seen in previous historical fiction I've read....Ultimately I just personally found Grace unlikeable -until the very end- and since this book is primarily about her, it was challenging. I also thought it strange that her mantra of "You are smart. You are important. You are able." was SO similar to the one in 'The Help' (written in 2009 by Kathryn Stockett), "You is kind, You is smart, You is important." Again, I know there are many who will love this book so please read it and decide for yourself......totally my two cents.
Sweet, Touching, but Lacks Depth. I very much enjoyed reading about the Kodak Brownie box camera, and the life of Irish immigrants in 1900-1901. I felt that the discussions of Tammany Hall and its influence could have been better explained. I’ll be looking that up. The historical descriptions and the surroundings were very well written, but the characterizations seemed incomplete. It was slow-moving at times, and repetitive. I kept hoping for more in-depth description of Grace’s feelings. I did enjoy it, overall. I added a star for a clean story, with intrigue that is resolved at the end. It's great for a light read.
Grace's Pictures is an interesting book from a historical standpoint. Thomson obviously did her homework in researching the book. The snapshot into how early personal cameras were received by the public as invasions of privacy was quite interesting in comparison with our current obsessiveness with snapping pictures of everything and compulsively posting them online for the world to see. It was interesting how corrupt the police organization was and the role of the police of that time. However, despite all the interesting history and information in this book, I just couldn't get interested enough in the characters to care what happened to them. Perhaps there was too much predictability. Obviously, Grace and Owen were going to become friends (or more) at some point. Even the happenings in the Parker household were foreseeable. I'm sure there are readers that would love this book, but it just wasn't for me. If you are looking for a light historical fiction to read in an afternoon, this might be for you.
Grace is an immigrant from Ireland who passes through Ellis Island in 1900. A poor young woman with no one to vouch for her in a big city, Grace is in constant peril of succumbing to the city's underside until she meets a young police officer on a mission to keep his beat safe for decent citizens, including Grace. This book felt long. It dragged. It kept going and going. The plot suffers drastically from a lack of contrast between the emotional highs and lows of the story. Grace is starving, homeless, country-less. She's just escaped the clutches of the evil English work house, only to find herself working for a woman who is emotionally troubled. Her one outlet, a brownie camera, keeps getting her in trouble with gangs. What ought to have been a heart-rending emotional journey of self discovery was less than a series of vignettes featuring immigrant life in turn of the century New York. Similarly, the police officer who is Grace's potential romantic interest and the other main character suffers equally from poor writing. Yes, I understood what he was supposed to be: a young man of courage and conviction who is willing to turn his back on everything he's ever known as a member of the upperclass to help make life better for others. But again, the writing is so flat, I had trouble believing he actually had the chutzpah to do what was needed to defeat the villains. Other than that, this book was fairly non-objectionable. Any repercussions from discussing abandonment, child abuse, the affect of an emotionally unstable parent, the drug trade burgeoning at that time in NYC, dirty cops, beatings, harassment, death threats, etc. are practically mitigated by the monotone narration. This book fails solely to poor execution. I have read other books with similar plots and themes which I enjoyed, and wouldn't mind reading again. But this novel fails to fill its niche. There just wasn't enough emotional content for me to buy into.
Grace was sent to live in a workhouse in Ireland after her mother was thrown out of their home. With no money, her mother was able to get Grace the opportunity to go to New York, where a church organization would help Grace find a job. It always amazes me how these young people left their homes and families, got on a ship, and traveled across the sea, never truly knowing what would be awaiting them on the other side. What bravery that took! Grace is taken to Reverend Clarke, a man of God who helps immigrants find work and form a community. My favorite line in the book is from Reverend Clarke, who said to Grace, "And I ask myself, is there more love in the world because of what I'm doing? If not, I need to change that." Imagine if everyone in the world followed that idea, what a lovely place this would be. Grace finds work as a nanny to a family of five young children. Their mother appears indifferent and their father is a busy businessman, who wants to control everything and everyone. Grace has a hard time at first dealing with them all, but she grows to love the children. Thomson has a way with a phrase, like this one: "Owen's mother and her friend jabbered so much a candle didn't have a chance of staying lit in the room." She drops us right into the setting, teaching us the slang of the day, such as "peeler" for police officer. Her visual imagery is strong as well, describing a group of newsboys sleeping in a doorway as "huddled together like puppies." I immediately had that picture in my mind. Grace takes her young charges to Battery Park, and Thomson's description of that scene brought the place to life, as they dodged pretzel vendors and young boys" hawking trinkets". The theme of immigrants and how they are perceived by the society is a timely topic, as Congress is now debating how best to deal with the immigration issue in our country. We can see in this novel that, although set over 100 year ago, the treatment of immigrants is a topic our country has grappled with for a long time. A unique aspect of this story is Grace's infatuation with the newfangled Brownie camera. Grace meets a photographer and is entranced with his work. She saves her money, buys herself a simple camera, and teaches herself to takes photos. At times, this gets her into trouble as she accidentally takes photos of a mobster who doesn't want to be photographed. This storyline adds an interesting piece to the novel. There is a love story, and some action as Grace's camera gets her into trouble. I liked that Grace found people who helped and encouraged her, rather than took advantage of her as we often see in stories like this. We also see New York at the turn of the century, along with the internal politics of the police department. Thomson clearly did a great deal of research for this novel. If you like immigrant stories, Grace's Pictures is one you should not miss. I'm hoping that we meet Grace and her friends again in the future as she surely has more of her story to tell.
Grace's Pictures is a must read! Grace McCaffrey leaves Ireland to start a new life in America. When she arrives at Ellis Island a photographer asks permission to take her picture. Grace hesitantly agrees and she accepts a business card from the photographer in case she would like to have the photo once it is developed. As she settles into her new life in New York she is inspired by the photographer and decides to buy her very own Brownie camera. As Grace ventures out to the streets of New York she is eager to take photos of unsuspecting pedestrians. This does not set to well when she may have taken a picture of a known gang and their leader. The gangsters are determined to get the camera from her which puts her in danger. When she lived in Ireland she abhorred the police. She never trusted them in Ireland and refused to trust them in America because most of them were Irish. It seemed one policeman had taken it upon himself to see to her safety and it did not hurt that her found her very attractive. He convinced her to let him escort her to and from her nanny job as means of protection. Will Grace ever trust men, especially the Irish policeman. She was even afraid to trust God. The author has added an interesting element which was the Brownie camera along the presumption that a woman in 1900 would dare to venture into the field of photography. Some of the characters the author has worked into the story are known historical figures. I am always eager to learn something new about our American history. This story is full of suspense that will have you holding your breathe at times. There is also the stirrings of romance. But most important there is forgiveness and reconciliation. God does not turn from this woman even when she turned from Him. The author writes of how God reveals His path for these characters. I highly recommend this book. Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for review. I was in no way compensated for this review. This review is my own opinion.
Newly arrived from Ireland, Grace learns to take pictures with her new camera, but gangsters think she took a picture of them. A policeman wants to help Grace, but she distrusts all police, and must decide who she can trust. I liked this story of Grace. She seems timid upon her arrival in New York City, but circumstances force her to have courage. There were many characters in the book, and the reader had to decide if some were good or bad. The parts about the police corruption and using a camera were rather interesting.
A sweet historical novel with a touch of danger that keeps you reading until the end. I love history so when I saw this book featured a heroine from Ireland, my favorite country to read about outside of the U.S., I jumped at the chance to review it. Grace's Pictures brought up some I history that I, quite frankly, had never thought of. Sitting here with my little touch-screen Nikon with its pink case and Marylin Monroe neck strap, I never really thought about what it would be like for people when the Brownie box camera was first introduced. “So easy even a child can use it”, those are some pretty empowering words if you really think about it. Now anyone could take photos, forever capturing the smile of a loved one or a scenic view that you wished to remember for years to come. Along with the newfound freedom came a question of ethics, loss of privacy, and even danger if you photographed the wrong person. We sure have come a long way since 1900. Another piece of History that I hadn't thought much about involved Tammany Hall. I had heard of Tammany Hall before and the widespread corruption, but I hadn't really thought that there might have been a few honest cops that didn't knuckle under. The hero of Grace's Pictures, Owen, is one such cop. This book is not Historical Romance. Historical, yes, but not overly romantic. Grace's Pictures is more about Grace, herself. Grace has a lot to learn, about...everything. With her emotional growth stunted by years of verbal abuse, first from her father, and then at the workhouse, she is torn screaming from her mother and then unable to see her for years. She is sent to America, an alien country, where she has to mature and learn to take care of not only herself, but the children she nannies for. Grace has to learn to trust others, herself, and most importantly, God. Will Grace learn to trust and find the inner strength that only God can give, in time to save herself and the others now in danger because of her? My suggestion is to read this book and find out! (I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.)