Friday, October 13, 2017

review: the hired girl by laura amy schlitz

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After the passing of her mother, 14 year old Joan is left responsible for all the cooking and cleaning on her family's farm. Although Joan loves school and her mother hoped Joan would be educated enough to be a teacher, Joan's father insists she stay home to work; such is life in 1911. But Joan is a rebel. She hears of workers going on strike and learns that hired girls can make $6/week, so she declares herself on strike unless her father gives her the egg money like her mother got. Joan's father won't hear of it, which leads to the Catholic Joan leaving home and finding a job as a hired girl for a wealthy Jewish family.

The differences in religion frequently come into play in Laura Amy Schlitz's The Hired Girl, which was inspired by her grandmother's journal. At first there are misunderstandings (such as the need to use different sinks) on Joan's part, but it all becomes more complicated as Joan, who has lied about her age, develops feelings for one of the Rosenbach sons (who is quite the flirt). The Hired Girl unfolds slowly with Joan initially coming across as a whiny child, but she comes into her own as learns to navigate life as a household employee. Throughout the touching epistolary novel, Joan shares her longings and her amazement at her experiences all while staying true to her forthright nature (which gets her into trouble on a number of occasions).
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

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