Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt is a story about immigration from Italy to America in the 1900s. The two main characters, Teresa and Lucia are mother and daughter who fled to America after things in Italy didn’t work out like they had planned. However, a fresh start isn’t as easy as it sounds, and when Teresa’s old demons return, it causes her daughter to choose between her and her future.
“Italy, 1905. Fourteen-year-old Lucia and her young mother, Teresa, are servants in a magnificent villa on the Bay of Naples, where Teresa soothes their unhappy mistress with song. But volatile tempers force them to flee, exchanging their warm, gilded cage for the cold winds off Lake Erie and Cleveland's restless immigrant quarters.
With a voice as soaring and varied as her moods, Teresa transforms herself into the Naples Nightingale on the vaudeville circuit. Clever and hardworking, Lucia blossoms in school until her mother's demons return, fracturing Lucia's dreams.
Yet Lucia is not alone in her struggle for a better life. All around her, friends and neighbors, new Americans, are demanding decent wages and working conditions. Lucia joins their battle, confronting risks and opportunities that will transform her and her world in ways she never imagined.” – Swimming in the Moon
Swimming in the Moon is a beautifully written historical novel. It features detailed characters, scenes, and a rich storyline that makes me as a reader feel involved in the story. I came to care about Teresa and Lucia like I knew them, and wanted the best for them, regardless of what they may have done.
Teresa is obviously a damaged character, but she still tries to do her best for her daughter, even though her personal struggles are beyond hard for her to live with sometimes. Lucia’s goal to finish high school and going to college is changed with she receives news about her mother’s mental breakdown. Giving up one dream is hard, but Lucia’s real strength shows through so much when she helps her mother. This courage is seen even more when she is part of the garment strike of 1911 and becomes someone I think everyone could be proud of.
I really enjoyed reading this novel. It showcases so many subjects that are important to our history as a whole, while still providing a very readable and enjoyable storyline. I highly recommend it.
* Thank you to the publisher of Swimming in the Moon, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy of this book for review. All opinions expressed are my own.