The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan: Review and Giveaway!
Posted by Krystal Larson at 8:51 PM Friday, July 22, 2016
In this compulsively readable historical novel, from the author of the critically-acclaimed Two Sisters, comes the story of two young women—one in America’s Gilded Age, one in scrappy modern-day California—whose lives are linked by a single tragic afternoon in history.
1888: Elizabeth Haberlin, of the Pittsburgh Haberlins, spends every summer with her family on a beautiful lake in an exclusive club. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains above the working class community of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the private retreat is patronized by society’s elite. Elizabeth summers with Carnegies, Mellons, and Fricks, following the rigid etiquette of her class. But Elizabeth is blessed (cursed) with a mind of her own. Case in point: her friendship with Eugene Eggar, a Johnstown steel mill worker. And when Elizabeth discovers that the club’s poorly maintained dam is about to burst and send 20 million tons of water careening down the mountain, she risks all to warn Eugene and the townspeople in the lake’s deadly shadow.
Present day: On her 18th birthday, genetic information from Lee Parker’s closed adoption is unlocked. She also sees an old photograph of a genetic relative—a 19th century woman with hair and eyes likes hers—standing in a pile of rubble from an ecological disaster next to none other than Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Determined to identify the woman in the photo and unearth the mystery of that captured moment, Lee digs into history. Her journey takes her from California to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from her present financial woes to her past of privilege, from the daily grind to an epic disaster. Once Lee’s heroic DNA is revealed, will she decide to forge a new fate?
I never knew that this event occurred in history so that alone makes me glad I read this book. I did enjoy the overlay of the past and present and thought the author did a pretty decent job of ensuring it was not confusing or contradictory. I could sort of guess where the ending was headed, but it was a nice surprise anyway. Lee and Elizabeth were both strong female characters who tried to do what is right. I think Elizabeth pushed Lee in the right direction.
I did enjoy the characters though I wish I had gotten to know them better. I really felt "in the past" when reading from Elizabeth's point of view. The author's attention to detail was very good and the plot moved fairly quickly after I got my footing in the beginning. I do wish that the book paid more attention to the actual flood and the politics behind that. Although I enjoyed the book, this felt like a quick read to me which doesn't usually happen with historically-based books. A reader who enjoys historical fiction or someone who wants to learn about an event in their country's history they liked did not know about would enjoy this book.
3 1/2 Stars
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