Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson
Published by Tyndale House Publishers ISBN 978-1-4143-6845-0
Trade paperback, $14.99, 386 pages
Cindy Thomson's Ellis Island series began with Grace's Pictures, about a young Irish immigrant who comes to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. She finds work as a nanny for a family and a room at a boarding house run by a kind Christian woman, and becomes enthralled by photography.
The second book in the series is Annie's Stories, about another young Irish immigrant who lives in the same boarding house. Annie is the housekeeper at Mrs. Hawkins' boarding house. She was raised by her father, a storyteller called a seanchaithe, in Ireland. When her father died and Annie went to live with her an uncle, who treated her poorly.
Her uncle shipped her off to the Magdalene Laundries, a horrible place for girls who are abandoned by their families. Many of the girls were pregnant and gave birth to babies there. (The Magdalene Laundries have been in the news over the last year, and the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena dealt with this issue as well.)
Eventually Annie was sent to New York to live. Annie's father left her with a small writing desk, filled with children's stories he created for Annie. She treasured these stories, and reading them gave her great comfort.
The local postman, Stephen, has a crush on Annie, but he hasn't worked up the courage to tell her. They both enjoy reading, and Stephen suggests that they read the hottest book in publishing, The Wizard of Oz, so that they could discuss it together.
As someone who loves to read, I really enjoyed the role that books and the publishing industry played in the story. Stephen lives above a publisher's offices, and we get to glimpse how publishing worked in the early 1900s.
Thomson does a great deal of research for her books, and because of that, the reader feels dropped right into the middle of this fascinating era in New York City. There is a subplot that involves the Pinkerton Detectives and another boarder, and the steely resolve that Mrs. Hawkins shows in dealing with an unpleasant situation is impressive.
Annie's faith is a very important part of her life, and it informs everything she does. Mrs. Hawkins is a deeply religious woman as well, and their strength of faith is inspirational to readers.
I so enjoyed catching up with Grace as they all prepare for her wedding to Sgt. McNulty, a policeman. Perhaps we might see another wedding in a future Ellis Island book?
Anyone who wants to add to their reading list will have some new suggestions too, from Jules Verne's Facing the Flag to H.G. Wells First Man on the Moon and of course, Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz, which plays such a big role.
If you enjoy historical fiction and Christian fiction, Annie's Stories is a must-read for you. I felt like I was catching up with old friends, and made some new ones that I hope to meet up with again the near future.
rating 4 of 5
Cindy Thomson has a website filled with her fascinating research and you can find it here.
My review of Grace's Pictures is here.
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