Friday, June 19, 2015

Julie's Review: Under the Same Blue Sky

Author: Pamela Shoenewaldt
Series: None
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: 352
Obtained: Caitlin Hamilton Publicity & Marketing
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful novel about finding out where you belong
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: 1914. In the coal-dusted shadows of Pittsburgh's steel mills, shopkeeper's daughter Hazel Renner dreams of adventure under blue skies and escape from her German-American parents' ambitions for a respectable career. But war in Europe shatters her plans and community, pitting neighbors and friends against each other and shaking free a family secret. Seeking peace in the countryside, Hazel is visited by a mysterious healing power—a gift that swiftly leads to tragedy. Resolved to discover who she is and where she belongs, Hazel follows her past to an exiled German baron fighting private demons in an American castle. There she meets Tom, a gardener who shares the freedom of flight, but their powerful bonds will be tested by the chaos and voids of war. Betrayed by her healing powers, struggling to protect those close to her while keeping her own heart safe, Hazel must reconcile youthful dreams with the devastating realities around her. She discovers that escape is closer than we think, and true healing can take unimaginable forms in a world after war.

Review: Under the Same Blue Sky is a beautiful, quite story about finding where you belong when you life gets turned upside down. It's about finding some calm when the world is crazy. Hazel is a dutiful daughter of German immigrants who have made their American home in Pittsburgh. She loves her parents but dreams of being an artist. Her mother wants her to do something that will make a difference like being a teacher or a doctor. When war breaks out in Europe, Hazel puts her dreams on hold to become a teacher. She ends up getting a teaching post Galway, PA and works to win over the farming community. She befriends the "crazy" guy and unfortunately this has disastrous outcomes for both of them. It is here that Hazel discovers her healing powers and while she thinks she's helping people, it eventually becomes the thing that makes her leave Galway.

Hazel really comes into her own when she leaves Pittsburgh for the 2nd time to the castle where her mother worked. It is here where she finds her place. She works for the Baron in his art dealing business and makes herself at home in Dogwood. Hazel's life isn't ideal though. She slowly watches the war in Europe consume her father and take his soul. She is torn between two worlds: the America she loves and her parents homeland of Germany. She watches as the war makes the immigrants of Germany the enemy.

 Ms. Schoenewaldt does an excellent job of setting the stage for what is going to come in the novel. The tension is easy to feel through the plot and the characters. It is their experiences that you feel as a reader and it's what connects you to them. 

The story moves methodically but it is never slow or plodding. The pace of the book takes you back to a time where things didn't move so fast and news wasn't instantaneous. Where you had to wait weeks, months or perhaps years to find out what happened to family/friends during the war. I really enjoyed following Hazel on her journey. She's a lovely young woman who is seeking to breakaway from her parents dreams for her to create her own. She does this while also respecting their wishes and being a dutiful daughter. She never doubts herself or strays from her beliefs. She does come into her own at the end of the novel.

I will definitely be checking out her previous novels and keeping an eye out for her future books. For those that enjoy a story that reveals itself slowly and that enjoy coming of age stories, you won't want to miss Under the Same Blue Sky. 



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