My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I got this book via paperbackswap.com earlier this week. It’s a lengthy book at 604 pages, but I finished it in about 4 evenings. It progresses quickly and held my interest easily.
At the beginning, we learn of the Kirkham family in Manchester, England, deserted by the father in 1829 and left to fend for themselves. I was fascinated by the way the author described life in this time period and a lot of the historical accuracy weaved throughout this fictional tale. Dinah Kirkham, the youngest child of the family, is the main character in the book yet the stories are really all about her family, and the various paths they all take, the struggles they must each face, and their inner strength.
The first few sections of the book take us along as the Kirkhams struggle to survive, the children working in factories at ages so young it was hard to imagine, the mother accepting her now lowered station in life and looking for work in the homes of others, all while living in a miserable shack of a home. The latter half of the book occurs after the Kirkhams have been introduced to a Mormon missionary who has a message that resonates with most of the family. From there, the story takes a turn both narratively and geographically.
While Dinah is a fictional character, the author has her interacting with real people and real events who have also been fictionalized in these stories, but it gives the book more of a non-fiction feel. Card also uses “First Words” in between chapters where he appears to be giving background on his “great aunt Dinah” and her diary, so it was easy to forget that this was a fictional character.