Miriam, Miriam, Miriam. She does have her problems, poor girl. Miriam Markowitz/Markov has survived much in her short life, from pogroms and Anti-Semitism in Europe to an Atlantic crossing in less-than desirable conditions. Her life is not an easy one and an insufferable brother (Yuri) does little to improve things. When her father leaves for the United States where he hopes to send for his family in a couple of years, Miriam remains behind with her mother, grandparents and two younger siblings. When the long awaited day arrives – the day the family begins their journey to America – Yuri goes missing nearly causing the family to miss their train. And that’s not all. When he fakes disabilities before the very eyes of immigration officials he is turned away. Miriam is left to make the transatlantic crossing on her own as her mother opts to remain behind with Yuri. And so begins a time of many ups and downs for Miriam in her first steps toward a new life.
You’ve got to say one thing about Touched by Fire – it doesn’t lack for facts. I’ve done some studying on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire over the years (not much, but some) and recognized quite a bit of the story material as accuracies. I think sometimes the facts are a little blatant, however, and not weaved as seamlessly as they could have been. The dialogue can be a little cheesy (for lack of a better word) in some places reminding me of the first novel I wrote – which is unpublished, thank goodness. That’s not to say that Touched by Fire should never have been published – I’m very glad it was! It is my humble opinion, that juvenile fiction could do with more realistic historical fiction as it seems to have been waning over the last few years.
But this is coming from a mature reader. I can honestly say that I would have loved this book when I was in the 10-14 years old category, barring one incident. All in all Irene N. Watts has written a great book and nice learning tool for younger readers.
DISCLAIMER: In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” we would like to note that we received an electronic copy of “Touched by Fire” from NetGalley.com provided by the publishers, Tundra Books, in exchange for our honest review.