Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: THE GIRL IN THE TORCH, by: Robert Sharenow

Image credit: HarperCollins website
Hi Mayhemers! Marissa Burt here. Today, I'm delighted to introduce you to Robert Sharenow's wonderful new MG historical THE GIRL IN THE TORCH. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. First, a bit about the novel from the promotional materials:

"THE GIRL IN THE TORCH tells the story of Sarah, a 12 year-old immigrant girl who is orphaned when her mother dies upon their arrival in America, escaping the pogroms of Czarist Russia. Everyone in their village dreamed of America after a tantalizing postcard of the Statue of Liberty featuring Emma Lazarus' poem circulated among them. But when no American relatives can be located to sponsor Sarah after her mother's death, her hopes are crushed as she is placed on a ship for deportation back to Russia.

In desperation, she makes a daring leap into New York Harbor and swims to the nearest land mass, Liberty Island, where she takes refuge inside the Stature of Liberty, the torch becoming her own private bedroom. To survive, she scavenges for food among the tourists during the day, evading capture by hiding amid the trees and retreating to Lady Liberty upon nightfall.

Eventually, she is discovered by a troubled night watchman named Maryk who takes her under his wing and brings her to his boardinghouse in Chinatown. There, Sarah is integrated into a very diverse and eccentric group of outsiders who become like family to her. As she struggles with her new life and identity, crackdowns on illegal immigrants sweep Chinatown, putting Sarah and her housemates at risk. Will she escape their wrath or be sent back to Russia to face what promises to be a tortured life?"

I was delighted to discover that THE GIRL IN THE TORCH is as rich with historical details and
Image credit: Wikimedia, public domain
well-fleshed out characters as the promotional materials promise. The obviously well-researched historical background created a vibrant setting that was full of life.

And Sarah! What a main character! It takes skill to create empathetic characters facing difficult situations with pluck and still keep them realistic. I liked Sarah's strength despite the direness of her circumstances and how she discovers a kind community in the midst of her own loneliness and loss.

I found the narrative to be a winsome blend of gratitude, optimism, and realism that seems relevant today. I left the story with a rekindled interest in the stories of past immigrants and, though not directly addressed in the book, with questions about how we deal with immigration today.

All that to say, I highly recommend that you add THE GIRL IN THE TORCH to your summer reading list! It is available in bookstores and libraries now. Happy reading, Mayhemers. :)


  1. This sounds really interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  2. WOW! This sounds like something I would love!!!

  3. I love historical fiction. Sounds fun.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!