I love historical fiction and I am always excited to read a unique slice of history that hasn’t been analyzed to death. There is such a wealth of stories that could be told about all of the thousands of people who came through Ellis Island. So when I saw The Next Ship Home, I was really hopeful about the stories that might be revealed. The story that is told is not one to be proud of if you’re an American. It focuses on the darker side of immigration – the xenophobia, the extortion and the outright abuse of these newly minted Americans. People fleeing their homes hoping for a better life often faced a challenging entry to the country.
Francesca is a young girl fleeing her abusive father in Sicily, a country my own family immigrated from coming to America hoping for a better life. On the journey her sister falls ill and upon reaching Ellis Island they are sorted to a medical wing where she can recover. This leaves Francesca to navigate her way into this new country alone. She meets Alma, a young and very naïve girl who loves languages and dreams of escaping her prescribed life where she is to be married off. Until then, her stepfather has gotten her a job on Ellis Island. There she begins to see the truth of what most immigrants go through just to enter America for a chance at a new life.
Francesca and Alma’s stories weave together nicely and we see how one kind girl can make a huge difference in the life of not just one, but many immigrants. Francesca goes through a lot, some of it is very hard to read, but we see her amazing resilience and desire for the American dream. We also get glimpses of labor disputes in NYC in this time before unions as well as other social issues of the time. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Netgalley for access to an advanced copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Where did your family originate?