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Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: So Far From Home (Dear America) by Barry Denenberg

so far from home

So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1847 by Barry Denenberg
Dear American Diary Series
Hardcover, 170 pages
Scholastic Inc
October 1, 1997
★★★★☆

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Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Personal collection

In the diary account of her journey from Ireland in 1847 and of her work in a mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, fourteen-year-old Mary reveals a great longing for her family.

I picked up So Far From Home right after I came back from a trip to the Lowell Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts; I love being able to match a book with an experience! I had the opportunity to walk through some of the mills (experience a smidge of the noise created there) as well as the boarding houses where many of the girls would have lived. I wanted to see how Lowell stacked up in a novel treatment, especially one for young adults.

The novel takes on 2 topics that are nicely tied together: the first being the plight of the Irish facing famine at home that led to many choosing to flee to America, the second being how these immigrants were treated upon arrival in the United States. Mary and her family are caught up in the famine at home. Some of the family makes the tough decision to emigrate while some choose to remain at home and live through it. It was hard to think that people would choose to remain behind and continue to live in those conditions, but that was the life they knew and who knew what they would find in the new country. These concerns and arguments for and against were thoroughly explored. The ship voyage was treacherous and while I had thought about and read about the immigrant arrival experience before, So Far From Home did a great job of showing how scary that would have been; how do you find your family and figure out how to get where you are going, especially if you don’t speak the language. Mary’s experiences at the mills showed how the Irish immigrants were taken advantage of and asked to perform the more difficult and dangerous tasks. In total, I think the experience here was perfectly depicted.

One thing I didn’t like was how the book ended. It ends abruptly with Mary headed out for a new experience, which sounds like it could be rather dramatic and I thought it would have been interesting to explore that experience more. It just felt a little bit unresolved to me.

I always enjoy the bonus content included in these books as it expands on the reading experience without me needing to go do my own research. Included in this novel are images of the mills (inside and out), boarding houses, some sheet music for a lullaby that is mentioned in the novel and, what I found most interesting, the time schedules and pay scales for the mills.

Overall, this is a great novel to include for any kids learning about the industrial revolution or to expand upon a visit to the National Park. It’s sad that it’s not one of the few of the Diaries that is currently in print at this time.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:


Buy the Book:
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Other Book in the Dear America Series:

A Journey to the New World
A Journey to the New World

The Winter of Red Snow
The Winter of Red Snow

[My Review]

When Will This Cruel War Be Over
When Will This Cruel War Be Over?

A Picture of Freedom
A Picture of Freedom

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie

[My Review]

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
[My Review]

West to a Land of Plenty
West to a Land of Plenty

Dreams in the Golden Country
Dreams in the Golden Country

Standing in the Light
Standing in the Light

Voyage on the Great Titanic
Voyage on the Great Titanic

A Line in the Sand
A Line in the Sand

My Heart is on the Ground
My Heart is on the Ground

The Great Railroad Race
The Great Railroad Race

A Light in the Storm
A Light in the Storm

The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow

A Coal Miner’s Bride
A Coal Miner’s Bride

Color Me Dark
Color Me Dark

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping

My Secret War
My Secret War

[My Review]

Valley of the Moon
Valley of the Moon

Seeds of Hope
Seeds of Hope

Christmas After All
Christmas After All

Early Sunday Morning
Early Sunday Morning

My Face to the Wind
My Face to the Wind

Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

A Time for Courage
A Time for Courage

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Survival in the Storm
Survival in the Storm

When Christmas Comes Again
When Christmas Comes Again

Land of the Buffalo Bones
Land of the Buffalo Bones

Love Thy Neighbor
Love Thy Neighbor

All the Stars in the Sky
All the Stars in the Sky

Look to the Hills
Look to the Hills

Hear My Sorrow
Hear My Sorrow

I Walk in Dread
I Walk in Dread

The Fences Between Us
The Fences Between Us

Like The Willow Tree
Like The Willow Tree

Cannons at Dawn
Cannons at Dawn

With the Might of Angels
With the Might of Angels

Behind the Masks
Behind the Masks

A City Tossed and Broken
A City Tossed and Broken

Down the Rabbit Hole
Down the Rabbit Hole


Find Dear America series here.

 

 

 
Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

2 comments:

  1. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwe I loved that book. I loved all of them I still have a few of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I recently started re-acquiring them via eBay. Have most of the Dear America, My Name is America, and Royal Diaries again

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