Monday, September 9, 2013

Touched by Fire by Irene N. Watts

Touched by Fire by Irene N. Watts

This was a fascinating read, I asked for this from netgalley because I am fascinated with the Triangle Fire tragedy but this book is about so much than just that, it is a fabulous immigrant story.

We meet teenaged Miriam and her family when they are living in Kiev, they have already lived through the pogroms (which is a violent massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews) and there is hints at more to come, but her parents have a dream, to go to the golden land to America where no one burns you for being a Jew. They start their journey by getting out of Kiev and moving to Germany to make enough money for Papa to go to America first and for him to make enough money for the rest of the family to come over. It is 2 years before enough money is saved and the tickets arrive for Miriam, her mother Sara, her brother Yuri, and baby sister Devora to make the great sea voyage. However Miriam’s brother is a little brat who doesn’t want to leave, sorry Yuri really made me mad in this story and Devora has been sickly and the doctor advises that she not go on this trip. Ok that is all I am going to tell about that part *No Spoilers*.

The book goes on with Miriam’s story her sea voyage , what that was like and the conditions for these passengers was pretty grim, but I liked how the author let us see through Miriam’s eyes that first look at New York harbor  the Statue of Liberty and arriving at Ellis Island. I thought her descriptions of this and the Lower East Side made you feel like you were there and was well written. So there is so much more to this book than the Triangle Fire which I’m sure you have guessed is where Miriam gets a job and after still having nightmares from the Pogrom’s of her childhood this was a pretty tough time. One caveat here, the description of the fire is very graphic so teens or adults with a weak stomach may have a hard time with that.

I really enjoyed this book and pretty much read it in one sitting, this was my first book by Irene Watts though I have been meaning to try her books, I will now  be reading more of her books. I really enjoyed her writing and the descriptions of time and place were well done.

I would recommend this to teens and adults alike and will be buying the paperbook for our library!

4 Stars
As I said I received this book from netgalley for a fair and honest review.


  1. This one is going on my TBR list. Susie, if you're interested in a newspaper account of the events of that day, I recorded one for LibriVox. It can be found in this collection

    It's the 14th article in the collection and runs almost 45 minutes long. Some of it was very difficult to read and the reporter wasn't as concerned about keeping his emotions in check when writing about the fire. A horrible event in our history but it should be remembered.

    Glad to learn about this book!

    Lee Ann

  2. Thanks I will find that was awful but at least it changed things for the better and for future workers, this book did have a couple very graphic descriptions but I believe they were truthful like the sounds of the bodies hitting the ground, I would guess everyone there never forgot that awful sound.