It's 1910, and thirteen-year-old Raisa has just traveled alone from a small Polish shtetl all the way to New York City. It's overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and even dangerous, especially when she discovers that her sister has disappeared and she must now fend for herself. She finds work in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sewing bodices on the popular shirtwaists. Raisa makes friends and even—dare she admit it?— falls in love. But then 1911 dawns, and one March day a spark ignites in the factory. One of the city's most harrowing tragedies unfolds, and Raisa's life is forever changed. . . .
One hundred years after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, this moving young adult novel gives life to the tragedy and hope of this transformative event in American history.
Threads and Flames was a well written and intriguing novel by seasoned YA author Esther Friesner. This was my first book by Esther, but it definitely won't be my last. She created a fantastic and inspiring main character and the historical details were flawless. I love historical fiction and Threads and Flames was no exception. Raisa was a determined and likable main character and my heart went out to her when things became dangerous or difficult. I haven't read too many books about teenage girls coming to America through Ellis Island so it was especially interesting to read Threads and Flames.
For starters, Raisa was a character I liked right away. She never let anything distract her from her goals and she always stood up for what she believed in. The novel begins with Raisa recovering from typhus in her small Polish shtetl and deciding to move to America to be with her elder sister. Raisa's journey was inspiring and she stayed strong throughout, even when things got hard. The journey to America was surprisingly fast but Raisa met a lot of people on the ship that would greatly impact the rest of her journey. Brina and Zusa especially. I loved Brina, she was such a sweet toddler and she would be completely lost without Raisa taking her in. Zusa was another great character who helped Raisa adjust to life on the ship and translate things into Raisa's native Yiddish. It must have been especially frightening for Raisa arriving in Ellis Island because (1) she couldn't speak English (2) she couldn't read (3) she didn't have a job or know how to find her sister and (4) she had young Brina in her care. The inspection process at Ellis Island was the most frightening. One wrong move and you could be sent back to Europe, never to see your family again.
Raisa met a variety of people in America who helped her succeed and thrive but there were still a lot of people who didn't have her best interests at heart. Her life was full of ups and downs as she settled into American life and I applaud her determination and strength at keeping both herself, and another, safe in the foreign new land.
A lot occurs over the course of the novel, including a horrible fire that raged through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911. Readers take the journey of traveling from Poland to America with Raisa and experience all of her excitements and terrors of starting a new life. Esther Friesner brought to life a very important time in history.
Overall, I definitely recommend picking this up. It's a terrific novel by a great author and I can't wait to read more by Esther Friesner. Raisa is a main character you will love and root for and the plot will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars