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    An historical fiction lovers dream!

    The Strongman and The Mermaid goes way beyond fiction, Kathleen Shoop's words paint a picture of life that comes alive in the readers mind, all senses are experienced and emotions are felt. This is an historical fiction lovers dream! An absolutely outstanding read full of myths, traditions, festivities, historical facts and hardships experienced by a town mixed with different nationalities living and working in 1910 Donora, where existence was created by the mines and steel mills. I loved how the story begins in 2019, Donora, as Lucy, and her young son Owen try to re-home grandpa Patryk they find a treasured book that was created by his wife and sister. As as they sit down to listen to grandpa, the story of Donora many years ago in 1910, Mary and Lukasz takes us vividly back in time. Two sad, lonely souls, Lucasz and Mary, in other parts of the world, dream of what life could be, genuine soul mates waiting for their paths to gradually cross. My heart broke many times following young Czech Mary, her daunting days were filled with sheer hard work, worry and stress of living in poverty with her family. She had moments of joy and feelings of being loved but also had disappointment after disappointment. All her dreams and hopes belonged to the future when her life really would start, she would marry well to a man she loved and have the house she had dreamed about for so long. Then we have Lukasz, a Polish boy who longed for more in his life. He had the opportunity of a ticket to live the American dream in Donora, he would have a job, live in a lovely home with a lovely wife, all fed by an exaggerated truth of life in Donora, a life full of hardship. As you read their moving story you will see the darkened skies of Donora, hear the noise from the mills that filled the town with so much thick smoky air and sense and feel how it would stick to your skin and lungs as every breath was taken by the those who lived there. Yet will also feel the sense of pride by the people who lived there to have a self built home and employment, regardless of the conditions. You will enjoy reading about the myths and festivities that took place, my favorite being Midsummers eve and the throwing of the crowns into the river for a potential suitor to be found. Kathleen Shoop's characters are always so interesting, their back stories always so intriguing, you will find yourself no longer in reality but transported back to a time gone by in any of her books. In this one, you will laugh, you will feel the sense of warmth and joy from kindness, you will feel the sense of crushing from harshness, you will feel yourself rooting for the characters that have taken a hold of you from this beautiful, treasured tale. Now my joint favorite read, alongside The Last Letter, from one of my favorite authors.
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