The Girl in the Torch, by Robert Sharenow

The Girl in the Torch, by Robert Sharenow (Balzer + Bray, mg, May 2015)

In the early 20th century, Sarah and her mother leave their home, where Sarah's father has just been killed, for the hope that is the United States.  But then Sarah's mother falls ill, and dies in the immigration center, and Sarah is put on a boat headed back to Europe.  She refuses to give up on her dream, though, and jumps overboard, swimming to the Statue of Liberty.  For the next few days, she makes it her home, scrounging for food discarded by tourists and hiding from the night watchman.

Then the watchman discovers her...but Sarah is lucky, and he takes her off the island to a refuge in a household run by a Chinese woman.   And though more troubles come her way (the life of poor orphaned immigrants in New York City not being all that fun), Sarah is lucky in that she finds people to befriend her (to the point of requiring strong suspension of disbelief), and so her story ends with hope.

The majority of the people whom Sarah meets are well intentioned, and lacking in ethnic prejudice (they were Russian, Irish, Chinese, African American, and Native American, and Sarah herself is Jewish).   So although it might be hard for the cynic to swallow the fact that all these people worked together to look after Sarah, this niceness did much to compensate for the sadness of death and the hardness of poverty that are also part of Sarah's life.   And though I myself am cynical much of the time, I frankly prefer my historical fiction not to dwell too much on dark realities.  I am not drawn to grit.  Which means I enjoyed this one just fine, and thought it pleasantly readable; I'd happily give it to any young historical fiction fan who likes nice character-centered stories of the past!

(Here's what I would really have liked more of--Sarah living in the Statue of Liberty for longer, and making a home for herself there ala the Borrowers.  Oh well!)

Here's the Kirkus review.

disclaimer:  review copy received fro the publisher


  1. Yes! It would have been much more interesting! I did like the multiculturalism, though. Rather odd That the two of us aren't living in department stores or a cave or something... Or an English manor house!

    1. Well, basically my life is trying to make an old very needy house with lots of mysterious corners into a cozy home, which is almost like living in a cave....

  2. I myself am trying not to hold it against the book that Sarah is not in fact living in a lighthouse. I've read a number of good books set in the early 20th century recently, though (The Hired Girl is one) and will add this one to my list!

    1. You'd probably enjoy it just fine.....

  3. I've seen this now on a few different book blogs with mixed reviews. I love the cover and have to admit that it intrigued me.


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