By Teresa Henson
Jul 8, 2003 - 12:49:00 AM

Russian born, Anna Katz’s family fled their village eight years earlier to get away from the Cossacks’s pogroms against the Jewish people. Now, in 1899, when America is supposed to be the land of "Milk and Honey," why is it so hard to find a decent job? If you can find one, the hours of work are long and tedious, the pay a pittance, and if you dared complain, or get sick, you were replaced.


Braving the consequences, Anna Katz is focusing all her energy on the start of a union. She wants a life better for herself than working 10 hours a day with little to show for it. Which brings us to why she is standing on a street corner one spring Sunday afternoon. She is waiting for a friend to meet her for a union meeting. Her friend is late, as usual, if she even bothers showing up.


Nils Bjornsen is a recently-arrived immigrant from Voss, Norway. Attempting to locate the public library, with very little understanding of English, he is lost. Luckily for him, there is a pretty, red-haired girl up ahead that he can ask directions from.

Nils and Anna have wonderful chemistry from the moment they meet. Their language difficulties are quickly overcome. Finding out the library is closed, it isn’t hard for Anna to convince Nils to attend the union meeting. If there is ever a case of love at first sight, this is it.

Anna’s mother is aghast that Anna would be seen walking in public with a "Norskie"! No matter that he can play a violin so beautifully, a talent Nils and Anna’s father share.

They quickly realize they are meant for each other, and were brought together for that purpose. In spite of the prejudices of her family and neighborhood, when Nils proposes to Anna, she quickly accepts. A tragedy nearly separates them before they can fulfill their dreams.

A wonderfully informative book on the way of life for struggling immigrants of that time period, HEARTSTRINGS brings out the differences in the lifestyles and beliefs of different nationalities and religions. The prejudices each have against the other are so similar that it’s ludicrous. Ms. Larsen demonstrates, most realistically, the way people have of stereotyping others. She brings out the good in people, along with all their faults, in her characters. Although this book is fiction, it is so well-written, I would often forget that fact and seem as if I was reading a true story!

If you want a book that deals with all of life’s problems, whether from that time or now, you can relate to HEARTSTRINGS. It has a timeless quality to it. I found this book extremely heartwarming to read, and plan on reading it again. Definitely one to add to the bookshelf at home.


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