Annie’s Stories (Ellis Island series Bk 2) by Cindy Thomson
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 6/20/2014
Series: Ellis Island Series
Annie’s Stories is a tale of young lives struggling to overcome tragic pasts in a young Manhattan neighborhood. For Annie, who emigrated from Ireland four years ago, literally rescued by a warm-hearted British priest from cruel incarceration in what is historically known as the Magdalene Laundries, a reformatory type system that took in unwanted scraps of human life, forcing them into labor all in the name of charity, there was trauma and loss to overcome. Right after her father’s funeral, her heartless uncle spurred on by the false accusations of wrongdoing by her young cousin Aileen, sent her away to endless labor at one of those infamous laundries. Fortunately, she was now safely ensconced in the priest’s sister’s loving care in New York. Annie’s one great joy in life was being in possession of a writing desk fill with pages of stories written down for her by her beloved “da”–stories he made up especially for her. He called them Annie’s stories.
For Stephen, his difficult past included his father’s abandonment of his wife and sons when life got too difficult. In a fit of despair, the man had hung himself, leaving family members to fend for themselves. Stephen’s mother died of cancer and his brother passed away after a tragic construction accident. Stephen was left with the bills to pay for all those funerals and now the undertaker was threatening him. While he had a great job as a walking route mailman, the rent took most of his paychecks. But he fought against despair because he didn’t want to become like his father. He had his faith in God’s love and care, and he prayed when things became overwhelming.
One theme explored in this historical fiction romance is the search for home–a meaningful life where the characters belonged. This is what Annie Gallagher sought with her whole heart. A second theme explored was finding God’s place in her heart. It was a more difficult struggle, because Annie thought He had abandoned her when she needed Him most. She didn’t think she was important enough for Him to pay any attention to her. Bitterness of heart held her back from finding the peace she needed. Agnes Hawkins played an important role in helping Annie learn the truth about God’s nature and His love for her.
Stephen Adams also yearned for a family of his own. Stephen was a New Yorker by birth as his parents were before him. But like many others living in the US at the beginning of the twentieth century, he had ancestors who had been immigrants like Annie. So he and Annie had something in common. He very much wanted more in common with the little Irish lass who lived in the Agnes Hawkins House where she worked as housekeeper. But getting her attention was a challenge. To her, young Adams was just the pleasant mailman who stopped by the house regularly to deliver the mail.
The author intertwines some fascinating history from the world of the early 1900’s into the fabric of this story. Not only are Annie’s flashbacks of her time in the Magdalene Laundry based on true stories told by survivors of the institutions, she included the event of President McKinley’s assassination, tidbits of intrigue about the early postal system and its investigations into mail fraud, early financial scams perpetrated on innocent citizens, especially upon immigrants who had come to America expecting to amass wealth for themselves, and the role of the Pinkerton detective agency in tracking down criminals of all kinds. In those early days, some agents abused their authority to get information through intimidation.
Another element I liked in this book was the use of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum as a metaphor. The book had just been published in the time frame of this story and had taken the world by storm. Everyone was talking about the story of Dorothy Gale. Dorothy’s search for a way home seems parallel to Annie’s journey in life for meaning and love. Annie was trying to gain her footing in her new country, seeking purpose, to belong.
Annie and Stephen’s personal struggles fleshed out the characters and drew me to them effectively. However, I had difficulty with Stephen’s character. His bumbling was adorable and his intentions were honorable, and he did catch himself when he stepped over the line and tried to make decisions for Annie before she was ready for him to do that, but for some reason he didn’t resonate with me. I wanted to be in his corner rooting for him to make the relationship with Annie work, but I couldn’t get enthused over their future. I think I would have liked to have seen the two together more often, working out the dynamics together. Instead, the book focused on their separate issues, and only brought them together at the very end.
It is still a lovely story; the history and intrigue were great additions to the plot. I would recommend this to someone who enjoys historical fiction with a light touch of romance.
I am reading and reviewing this book for the Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. summer reading program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”