"If you leave Opi, you'll die with strangers," Irma Vitale's mother always warned. Even after her beloved mother's passing, 20-year-old Irma longs to stay in her Abruzzo mountain village, plying her needle. But too poor and plain to marry and subject to growing danger in her own home, she risks rough passage to America and workhouse servitude to achieve her dream of making dresses for gentlewomen.
In the raw immigrant quarters and with the help of an entrepreneurial Irish serving girl, ribbon-decked Polish ragman and austere Alsatian dressmaker, Irma begins to stitch together a new life . . . until her peace and self are shattered in the charred remains of the Great Chicago Fire. Enduring a painful recovery, Irma reaches deep within to find that she has even more to offer the world than her remarkable ability with a needle and thread.
A moving, powerful, and evocative debut novel, When We Were Strangers heralds the arrival of superb new voice in American fiction. Nancy E. Turner, author of These is My Words says of the novel “The people are as real as your own family, and the tale realistic enough to be any American’s."
Browse inside When Were Strangers, check out the reading group guide and Pamela Schoenewaldt's blog. I have 10 copies of When We Were Strangers to give away to the first 10 people who comment that they'd like to participate in the show on March 7th. Set your reminder for the show here.