Until We Reach Home
Bethany House, Oct 2008, $13.99
In 1897 the three Swedish Carlson sisters (Elin, Kirsten and Sofia) struggle with the deaths of their parents; especially their father who committed suicide. They find living with their uncle and aunt untenable. Though Sofia fears her own shadow, the trio led by the oldest Elin, writes to family members residing in Chicago and is invited to come to American and leave behind their beloved but now bittersweet Sweden.
However, America may be the land of the free, but the three siblings remain on Ellis Island for quite along time. Ailing Elin and Kirsten are hospitalized leaving Sophia the mousy meek one to care for herself. When they finally complete their journey by reaching Chicago, they quickly learn life is not better as they begin to understand why a house is not a home.
This is a timely superb historical tale of how much immigration has meant to this country. Through the sisters the focus is on the sixteen million who came to America heeding the call of the Statue of Liberty between 1890 and 1920. The three lead siblings are fully developed as their harrowing journey will grip an appreciative audience who make the trek with them (thankfully from our armchair). Lynn Austin provides a fascinating look at one of the great American immigration waves.