Thirsty by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe
Hardcover, 208 pages
September 29, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: From Publisher for Review
"It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic’s girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband Drago is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.
In Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Klara’s life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn’t afraid of Drago’s fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.
Thirsty follows a chain of unlikely events that keep Klara’s spirit aloft: a flock of angelic butterflies descends on Thirsty; Klara gives birth to her first child in Old Man Rupert’s pumpkin patch; and BenJo gives her a talking bird. When Klara’s daughter marries a man even more brutal than Drago, Klara is forced to act. If she doesn’t finally break the cycle of violence in her family, her granddaughters will one day walk the same road, broken and bruised. As the threads that hold her family together fray and come undone, Klara has to decide if she has the courage to carve out a peaceful spot in the world for herself and her girls."Thirsty follows the life of Klara Bozic as she immigrates to a small town, Thirsty, from her home in Croatia. The story evolves over 40 years of her life. She meets her husband, Drago, and he seems like the dream of every young girl – until they get to America. Once there, he becomes abusive toward Klara and the façade crumbles. As the cycle begins to repeat for her daughter, Sky, Klara knows that something has to be done.
This book spans the time period from 1883 to 1919. The steel boom is underway and it was fascinating to learn about how these small towns thrived around the factories. The people that lived there were completely ruled by the factory. One of the things that was very interesting to me was the death whistle. This whistle went off every time that someone was killed in the factory – and all of the women in town would walk down to the factory to learn who it was. How sad! This book was so well researched – right down to all of the little details.
I immediately was drawn into Klara’s life – her story was the story of many immigrant women who came to the United States. Domestic abuse was common and many dreamed of finding something better. I loved how O’Keeffe followed Klara as she evolved from a naïve young girl, moved into a broken, shell of herself, and then became empowered by the desire to break the cycle. O’Keeffe created a foil character for her in her neighbor Katherine. Katherine was an immigrant woman too, but her husband was a perfect husband. He would even run over to break up fights at the Bozic household!
This book was immediately absorbing and I didn’t want it to end. I loved that this book really made me feel much closer to my family heritage – which is a new feeling for me because I never really put much thought into it before.
You can visit Kristin's blog or website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book? You can also check out this trailer.
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