Title: Until We Reach Home
Author: Lynn Austin
Major Themes: Immigrants, Hope
Synopsis: Three Swedish sisters embark on a voyage to America, hoping for a better life—but when disaster strikes, and it seems as if they might be sent back, can they hold on to the hope that the Lord will work it out one way or another?
I’m looking at the lovely cover of this book, Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin, and trying to figure out how to say what I want to say about this book. I loved it. Every little bit of ugliness and sadness, and all the sweet joys and hopes and trials that happened in this story…it’s a masterpiece. I hope Mom won’t get tired of me telling her every once in a while that I really enjoyed this book, but I guess time will tell. I am planning on trying to convince her to read it in the near future.
Several years ago, I read a book by Lynn Austin called Candle in the Darkness. It’s the first in a series, a very memorable tale of the civil war, and I’ve only read the first book, but it was fantastic. I don’t say that lightly, either—she’s an excellent writer. I’m looking forward to having the excuse to re-read that one soon, and I may just buy the sequels to it as well. Until We Reach Home was of the same caliber, and very worthwhile reading too.
Three sisters—Elin, Kirsten, and Sofia—live on their family farm, where their uncle, his wife, and children have come to live with them after their parent’s deaths. Mama had died only three years ago or so, and after that Papa was a changed man. Not too long afterward, he walked out onto the lake even though he knew the ice was dangerously thin and fell through to his death. Uncle Sven had moved in to help the family, but soon Elin discovered he had different intentions with her—and the shame of his deeds soon weighed quite heavily on her. She began avoiding him, and not too long afterward she spotted him talking to Sofia…was there never an end to the lengths he would go with her and her sisters? They needed a way out, and quickly, and America, where Uncle Lars and his family were already settled, seemed like the perfect place to escape to.
It wasn’t easy to leave their home in Sweden, though, and as the girls headed across land and sea to reach their new home they met with many more trials than they had first envisioned. Is there any chance of them reaching a safe home eventually? What happens when several of the girls are sent to hospitals before they even manage to set foot on American soil? Will they be allowed in?
While fictional, Until We Reach Home is a memorable story of three courageous girls fighting for what they really want—freedom and new hope in life. Although I’ve read stories of immigrants before, this presented a striking picture of what life was like for them in a new way. Having read (well, listened to) Bessie’s Pillow not long ago, it was especially interesting to read a different perspective on the same place—some things, like Ellis Island, felt almost like old friends when it came up in this book. And although this story is obviously fictionalized, everything that did happened in such a way that it felt quite believable. In all, I cried over some of the heartaches the characters had to endure, I laughed over their triumphs and their fumbles and foibles at times, and mostly just enjoyed the story. This is a one-of-a-kind work, and if you’re even the slightest bit interested in history with maybe a dash of romance thrown in, this would be the perfect book for you.
WARNING: (SPOILER ALERT—some of the following could potentially be somewhat of a spoiler, but I must mention them for honesty’s sake. I’ve tried to keep details as vague as possible.) Chapter one asks “had their uncle had been alone with her, too?” It also has a character keeping a knife in her pocket, “if he ever laid hands on…[she] would kill him.” Chapter two has a passing mention of a kiss two times and also mentions how the girl felt in a guy’s arms. Later, it tells of a man who “killed himself”. Chapter five mentions kissing several times. Someone swears in chapter seven. Chapter eleven mentions kissing again, and “she had gone too far with him once”. Chapter sixteen says “one time […] she had been alone [and] they had been swept away.” Later, it mentions pregnancy several times, but never in detail. Chapter twenty-eight has two characters discussing suicide, after one rescued the other from committing suicide, and said one “lifted [the cuff] to expose a jagged scar.”
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults