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Book Reviews - Family

Book Review: The Things We Didn’t Know

Elba Iris Pérez has written an engaging novel about an immigrant family, The Things We Didn’t Know. The story takes us to Woronoco, Massachusetts and to Puerto Rico. The main character is a young girl who must find her identity as Puerto Rican and American.

Andrea, came to Massachusetts with her Mamá, Papá and brother. Her father was employed at the Strathmore Paper Mill, along with other immigrants from Puerto Rico. The employees at the mill have housing owned by Strathmore. The town consists of housing and the mill—grocery stores are in nearby towns. 

For short periods of time Andrea and her brother, Pablo, return to Puerto Rico. As children they are living between two cultures. In the Puerto Rican community, they speak Spanish. In school they speak English.

The story takes place in the 1950s and 1960s. The author writes about hard work, success and failure. I was able to visualize Woronoco and Puerto Rico with the rich descriptions by Pérez. The deep bonds (and fractures) in family are an underlying theme.  

The story captivated me as I thought about my immigrant grandparents. The came to a Finnish community in the upper peninsula of Michigan in the early 1900s. My grandfather started out in the copper mines. One of the mining companies owned housing for the miners. 

Eventually my grandfather was able to buy a farm but it was miles from town and my grandmother did not have transportation. She spoke Finnish and never learned English. My mother learned English in the one room school that she attended.  

Pérez has captured the immigrant experience. It was thought provoking for me.

Sharing this post with Sweet Tea and Friends and Grace & Truth and Senior Salon Pit Stop .

Carol is a follower of Jesus and a wife, mom & grandma. She worked for many years as a childbirth nurse and prenatal educator. She recently retired from clinical work. She has written articles for nursing journals and devotionals. Her novel, Aliisa's Letter, was published in 2010 and she is currently working on another project.

3 Comments on “Book Review: The Things We Didn’t Know

    1. My grandparents immigrated in the early 1900s but in 1924 the Immigration Restriction Law was passed and very few Finnish people were able to come to the U.S. We have friends who immigrated to Canada instead.

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