Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz is an exceptionally good work of historical fiction and definitely one of my top five reads so far this year.

It's 1911, and Joan is desperate for a better life. Ever since her mother died, she has been responsible for all of the "women's work" at Steeple Farm, and now that she's 14, her father expects her to leave school and work all the harder. Joan sees no end to the drudgery, and when a standoff with her father results in the burning of her few, prized books, she determines to run away. In Baltimore, Joan hopes to find work as a hired girl -- she may have to work just as hard as she would back on the farm, but she might make as much as six dollars a week! Of course, things don't go as smoothly as she might have hoped, and she finds herself in Baltimore after dark, alone and scared after a run-in with a man who means her no good. She's hesitant to trust another stranger when she's approached by gentle Solomon Rosenbach, who takes Joan home to meet his mother. The upshot of this encounter is that Joan, a devout Catholic girl, finds herself in the employ of the Jewish Rosenbachs. In the months that follow, Joan learns a great deal about the world, religion, love, and herself. She makes mistakes and learns from them, sees things she'd never dreamed about back on the farm, and develops a terrible crush on David Rosenbach, Solomon's younger brother! She also lies about her age, a falsehood that troubles her greatly -- but if the Rosenbachs knew she was just 14, would they send her back to her father?

I can hardly do this book justice in a review. I've heard it described as a modern classic, and I have to concur. Joan's naivete, her struggles to better herself, her foibles and insights, all ring so true and clear. I'm reminded of favorites like Anne of Green Gables. Schlitz's handling of religion in the story is impressive. The secondary characters, setting, plot -- oh, everything about this book is just so good! This is one of my rare five-star reads -- highly recommended!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

1 comment:

  1. I just stumbled onto your blog tonight, and I am loving how you review books. You give just enough information without being too verbose. I just added this one to my to read list.