Schoenewaldt writes about immigrants, or at least has in her three novels to date. Her debut, When We Were Strangers, is the story of a young girl who comes to America from the Abruzzo region of Italy to escape the whims of a lustful father. In Schoenewaldt’s second offering, Swimming in the Moon, her main character, Theresa, comes to America from Naples, Italy, along with her mother who struggles with mental illness.
Under the Same Blue Sky introduces us to a family who emigrated from Germany to what seems to be one of Schoenewaldt’s favorite locations – Pittsburgh. The main character, Hazel, lives with her mother and father who are shopkeepers and they are living a happy life. That is, until World War I breaks out and suddenly the neighbors no longer see American immigrants but instead see evil Germans who are America’s enemies.
In the course of adjusting to their disrupted lives, Hazel learns a devastating secret about her family, and everything changes. She eventually leaves to take a job as a teacher in a small farming community, where she begins to find happiness.
Until, oddly I thought, she discovers she has the ability to heal. Once the community realizes Hazel has the power to cure, she is nearly overcome by people wanting her healing powers and not understanding that not everyone can be healed.
I say “oddly” because once Hazel leaves this small community to learn more about her family secrets, the healing thing just sort of dies down.
Despite this rather strange and (I thought) random part of the book, I found the novel to be simply magnificent. I loved all of the characters and haven’t been able to forget them, despite the fact that I read this book some months ago. The story was interesting and I found I couldn’t put the book down.
One of the things I most liked about the story was getting another perspective about what was really an awful war – World War I. We forget how American Germans (and in World War II, also Japanese) were treated once they became America’s enemies. Interesting and sobering.
My only complaint, once again, is the storyline around Hazel’s ability to heal. I would LOVE to have another story that features her healing abilities and how it impacts her life without getting distracted by another storyline.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend this wonderful book.
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