I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way. I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.
Lilli De Jong is a young woman who grew up in the Quaker faith in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She enjoys her post as a schoolteacher and is engaged in her 1883 community. However, when her mother passes, Lilli's life takes a turn. Lilli's father turns cold and Lilli seeks solace in the arms of Johan, her father's apprentice. One night of passion leaves Lilli pregnant after Johan has moved to Pittsburgh for work in the steel mills. With no news from Johan, Lilli finds herself at a charity of unwed mothers. However, when the time comes to give up her daughter, she can't, throwing Lilli down a path of hardship all for the sake of her daughter.
Intimate details of Lilli's hardships are shown through her private journal entries, pulling me into the unknown world of wet nurses and limited women's rights at the time. Reading Lilli's journey was an intensely emotional experience for me, as I imagine it would be for anyone who has had a child. I was most impressed by the writing of the reality of having a baby and the overwhelmingness of it all. I could not imagine having to go through what Lilli did. I was happy that the writing included the true feelings of new motherhood- the ups, the downs, the fatigue, not knowing if you can carry on, all while falling hopelessly in love with the person you have created. Lilli's voice is unique in that she is an intelligent, outspoken and passionate woman who has fallen into an unfortunate circumstance for her time period. However, even with these attributes, she is barely able to pull through as an unmarried mother in 19th century America. I am aware that being an unmarried mother definitely had its challenges in early American history, although I was surprised at some of the challenges Lilli faced and how they paralleled mothers in today's society. Overall, a passionate and engaging book about the bond between mother and child and the will to conserve that bond in 19th Century America.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.