Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Blog Tour/Review: The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic, by Hazel Gaynor
2014, 384p, Historical Fiction
My Rating=5 Stars
Source: Received a copy from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

A voyage across the ocean becomes the odyssey of a lifetime for a young Irish woman. . . .

Ireland, 1912 . . .

Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the few passengers in steerage to survive. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that fateful night again.

Chicago, 1982 . . .

Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her great-grandmother Maggie shares the painful secret about Titanic that she's harbored for almost a lifetime, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads both her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

Inspired by true events, The Girl Who Came Home poignantly blends fact and fiction to explore the Titanic tragedy's impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants.

I'm fascinated with the story of the Titanic, but not obsessed so I haven't read lots of books on it. This is a fictional account inspired by a real group of 14 Irish emigrants who left Ireland to visit relatives in America.

The story focuses on 17-year-old Maggie Murphy. Maggie's parents have both died and her aunt Kathleen has come to Ireland and is taking Maggie back to Chicago with her. While there, others have decided to join them in making the journey. Maggie is sad to be leaving her boyfriend, Seamus, behind. His father is sick so he won't be able to come, but tells her he'll be waiting for her to come home. 

We also get two more stories: "Lucky Harry," and Grace Butler, Maggie's great-granddaughter. Harry is one of the stewards on the ship who Maggie and her friends get to know and who later helps her get into one of the last lifeboats to leave. Grace's story takes place in Illinois in 1982. Grace's life was going well until her father died. She left college and her boyfriend, Jimmy, to help her mother. Maggie starts to help her get her life back, starting with telling her about her journey on the Titanic, a story she has never told anyone. Learning her great-grandmother's story gives Grace the courage to move on with her life.

I loved this book! Most of it is told in flashback so there's a lot of jumping back and forth. I didn't find it to be confusing and actually liked it. Maggie was young and excited to go on the ship, but she was sad to have left Seamus behind. It was interesting to experience the Titanic through her young eyes. Knowing what happened doesn't lessen the impact of the scenes of the tragic night of April 15, 1912. All the talk of the Titanic being unsinkable appeared to have caused confusion and disbelief at what was happening. The author didn't dwell too long on the actual sinking and I liked that. The aftermath is what gets lost sometimes. The journey to the Carpathia in the lifeboats was long and cold. The people waiting to welcome the ship in New York were in shock as they attempted to learn the fate of their loved ones, and even if they didn't see their names on the list of survivors, hoped they would still see them disembark. It's not too surprising that Maggie didn't want to remember and discuss the horror of that night until she was much older.

I also enjoyed Harry and Grace's stories. It was interesting to see what happened to Harry. I thought his ending would be a little different. Grace was able to learn what was important to her and to go for it before it was too late. I also loved Maggie's story and hearing the ending to it. She was able to do something at the end that she'd been wanting to do for a long time and was able to make peace with all that happened.

I like the section at the end where the author shares the story behind the book and tells the parts of the book based on fact. There is also a short Glossary of Irish Terms and Reading Group Discussion Questions. There is a lot to say about this book so it would be great for a book club! This is a clean read. If you enjoy reading about the Titanic, this is a book for you!

You can listen to a sample of the audiobook here.

About Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer in Ireland and the U.K. and was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers in 2012. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children, and an accident-prone cat.

Connect with Hazel on Facebook.

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Literary Feline said...

I am so glad to hear you liked this one so much. I've never been especially interested in the history of the Titanic, but for some reason this book really appeals to me. I can't wait to read it.

Katie W said...

This sounds like a really good one! I'll have to keep it in mind.

Unknown said...

This sounds great! Stories about the Titanic are usually super sad though. I have a feeling this will be an emotional read for me. I am kind of a baby :)

Anonymous said...

That extra info authors sometimes include at the end is often my favorite part of a book. I love learning the historical details behind a story.

Thanks for being on the tour!

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