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March 7, 2011

Book Chat: When We Were Strangers


This month's Online Book Club & Therapy Session featured the debut novel from Pamela Schoenewaldt, When We Were Strangers. In one of the happy accidents created by an online book club, the author herself has agreed to answer many of your reader questions so when you are commenting on the book let me know if you have a question for her. I'll assemble them all in an email tonight and post her replies when I hear back. Fancy, no?

I started reading this book during jury duty. I didn't really think any novel could completely take me out of the smelly feet drudgery that is the Burbank jury holding tank. Imagine my surprise when I looked up from the book and already two hours had passed! It was a bittersweet combination -- the sadness that is Irma's bumpy ride to America and the sweetness that was losing myself in a story and getting out of that smelly room and onto the smelly boat. At least metaphorically.

The writing is just lovely. This author wraps you in the story and doesn't lose you with too much description or drip adjectives all over the page yet she still paints such a clear picture of the scene that you feel like you are on that boat in steerage. You can taste the bread from Opi and feel the fabric of the dresses between your fingers. That's talent with words.

I have to say there were many times during the book when I thought, "Damn. Can't Irma catch a freakin' break already?" but perhaps that is more a critique of my fragile little state of mind than the story itself. I wanted happy things to happen for Irma. What can I say? I'm a sappy sucker for a happy ending. I wish there had been more of the ending -- perhaps stretched out longer. But it's a small complaint. I loved Molly, too, and appreciated the contrast of her energy and bravado against Irma's quieter character.

While reading this book I spent a fair amount of time feeling blessed to be born in this era. My rule of thumb when I get a time machine is that I will never go back to any year without penicillin. It's a good rule. You should think it through.

What did you think of When We Were Strangers? Did you get wrapped into the story or find some of Irma's trials and terrors too much? What did you think of the writing style, the way the author painted the scenery for us? Did you relate to Irma? Did you like the ending? Did you feel connected to the story?

I was pleasantly surprised by the novel. It sucked me in and kept me turning the pages fast so I could find out what happens next -- my benchmark for a great read. I can't wait to hear your feedback!

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Every one who participates in the book chitchat (by posting in the comments below) will be entered into a random drawing for an equally random assortment of knitting doodads from my stash. If you aren't a knitter (and therefore have no use for a pile of Patons Up Country or similar) be sure to mention that in your comment so I can scare up something unusual and less knitterly for you. Let the commenting begin!

Posted by laurie at March 7, 2011 1:12 AM