Lena Rothman arrived in New York, an immigrant who wanted to live the American dream. After getting a job in a shirtwaist factory, she makes friends, but her world is torn apart when she falls in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, Jake, and is pursued by an ambitions night school student trying to overcome his turbulent past, Daniel. When she becomes pregnant by Jake, after a fire in the factory, leaving both her and Jake thinking her friend has died—only to find out later that she survived, but is crippled for life, Lena leaves New York, and hopefully her past, behind.
The Garment Maker’s Daughter by Hillary Adrienne Stern is a multi-generational saga that follows a Jewish-immigrant family through the middle of the twentieth century. Through the eyes and lives of the characters, it dissects immigrant dreams and sweatshop realities, corporate greed and women’s rights, and most of all, shows how determined people survived some of the most turbulent times in American history.
At times disturbing, this is on balance a heartwarming story that reaffirms the strength and resilience that enables people to survive, and even thrive, despite the obstacles that life throws in their way.
It’s fiction, but it has more than a grain of truth.
I give it four stars.