Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt

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The year is 1904, and Teresa and her daughter, Lucia, are servants in the grand villa of a count and countess on the Bay of Naples. Lucia’s beginnings were shady, she doesn’t know who her father was, only that her mother was assaulted on the shore while working at a masquerade ball many years before. Still, they have a peaceful life, for the most part, cleaning the villa and keeping to themselves. One day, however, everything changes. Her mother aspires to sing opera, and who should appear before her but a famous male opera singer. She confronts him in effort to make him listen to her beautiful voice and she is cast aside and humiliated. News about the episode travels over the island, and the incident appears to be all the Count needs to escalate his poor treatment of Teresa, and to turn it’s terrible focus onto Lucia. Suddenly, the young woman and her mother are fleeing Italy and headed to America to find a new life.

Early 1900s America was a bustling place, full of opportunity and modern ideas…But life is not so wonderful as families in Italy were led to believe. Sweatshops fill the cities and immigrants are treated badly. Racism is powerful and there is no love lost between the Italians, the Polish, the Irish… All are competing for work and suspicion runs rampant. Still, Teresa gets a job and Lucia is allowed to learn English and go to school, and things go quite well for some time…But Teresa struggles, trouble finds them, and they must find a new path. Teresa decides to chase her dream and finally gets work as a performer in a vaudeville show. Lucia is finally able to graduate, but she receives terrible news about her mother, and her life and plans are put on hold…Maybe forever. Will Lucia ever find the life she wants, or will she continue to be beaten down, time and again?

Once in a while, an avid reader finds a novel like Pamela Schoenewaldt’s Swimming in the Moon and is thrown a little off-kilter by it’s originality and deep emotional pull. Many of us get trapped in genres, Paranormal Romance, or Historical Romance, or Fantasy, or ChickLit, and we never venture outside of our comfort zone. Swimming in the Moon is the type of book that takes you out of your comfort zone, although I would categorize it as women’s fiction because it outlines one of the greatest challenges faced by many females: the mother-daughter relationship. If you enjoy fiction with a lot of drama and feeling, you won’t want to miss Pamela Schoenewaldt’s Swimming on the Moon.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

 

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Cora Carlisle, by all appearances, is a married, church-going mother of two grown boys during the Prohibition. She believes in temperance, she believes in moderation, and she believes that a woman’s skirt should extend below the knees at all times. But Cora has her own secrets, and when she gets the chance to travel to New York with an aspiring dancer, the very beautiful fifteen year old Louise Brooks, the two of them will both walk away from the experience with very changed lives.

Louise is impulsive, shamelessly flirtatious and very self-centered and bold. Cora is virtuous and reserved. The two women make quite the pair, especially when they leave Kansas and step into the bustling streets of New York city.  Louise is desperate to find a way to stay out of Wichita, Kansas forever, and Cora wants to find out where she came from before she arrived in Kansas on an orphan train as a school-aged child. Temptation finds them both, much to Cora’s surprise, and she must make some very serious decisions about her virtues, her values, and her entire future when the trip ends.

The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, sneaks up on you, at first you expect a story about two mismatched women staying together in the big city, and you aren’t sure how it could possibly be interesting…Then the depth of the characters, the traumas of their lives, the truths are revealed slowly and by the end of the novel, you can’t stop reading to find out how they will fare before the story ends. Definitely women’s fiction at it’s finest.