July 28, 2016

Review: The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan

Title: The Woman in the Photo
Author: Mary Hogan
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks (Harper Collins)
Publisher: June 14, 2016
Length: Paperback, 432pgs

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In this compulsively-readable historical novel, from the author of the critically-acclaimed Two Sisters, comes the story of two young women—one in America’s Gilded Age, one in scrappy modern-day California—whose lives are linked by a single tragic afternoon in history.

This novel is heartbreaking. I honestly can't think of a better word to describe it.

Now, I don't mean heartbreaking in that it was disappointing. No, I'm talking heartbreaking in that it made me fall in love with every single character -- made me care about them deeply -- and then took them all away from me far too soon.

The Woman in the Photo revolves around two stories. The first one follows Elizabeth Haberlin in 1888. She's wealthy, she's somewhat spoiled, and she spends her summers in a club that sits in the mountains above Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Johnstown is a working-class town filled with factory workers who have to work hard to maintain the lifestyles of the rich & wealthy living above them. Separating the club from the village? A dam -- one that looks like it could burst at any second.

The second story takes place in present-day California, and follows Lee Parker. Lee is a teenager who has just found out that on her 18th birthday, the adoption agency she went through will give her more information about her family. And while she loves her adopted-mother dearly, this is Lee's chance to find out more about where she comes from. Who she really is.

When Lee arrives at the adoption agency, they hand over a photo of one of her ancestors. It's a woman standing with Clara Barton, near a devastated and completely destroyed town. The mystery plays itself out from there (I don't want to give you too much more!).

I have to say that I absolutely LOVED both of these stories, as well as the bits and pieces of Clara Barton's story as well -- which were like little gold nuggets hidden within the novel. All three of these women are strong-willed, passionate, and completely inspiring.

I can't ignore (even if I tried) the real heartbreak of this novel. The fact that the flooding of Johnstown, PA is based on an actual event (you can find out more here). The photos that accompany each of the chapters offer a glimpse into the lives of these innocent individuals who just happened to be a part of one of the worst tragedies in history. I had never heard of this tragedy before reading this novel, but it's now something I will never forget.

I highly encourage everyone to pick up this novel and read it ASAP. It's such a fast read. It pulls you right in and keeps you wanting more. And because you know what's coming, it also tugs at your heart strings the entire way through. It's a phenomenal novel. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do!

5 out of 5 stars!

Have you read this book? Let me know!!

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