Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Book Review: The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb

Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 8, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Ellis Island, 1902: Two women band together to hold America to its promise: "Give me your tired, your poor..."  Ellis Island, 1902. Francesca arrives on the shores of America, her sights set on a better life than the one she left in Italy. That same day, aspiring linguist Alma reports to her first day of work at the immigrant processing center. Ellis, though, is not the refuge it first appears thanks to President Roosevelt's attempts to deter crime. Francesca and Alma will have to rely on each other to escape its corruption and claim the American dreams they were promised.  A thoughtful historical inspired by true events, this novel probes America's history of prejudice and exclusion—when entry at Ellis Island promised a better life but often delivered something drastically different, immigrants needed strength, resilience, and friendship to fight for their futures."



Francesca and her sister leave Italy for the United States in hope for a better life. The year is 1902 and there's many immigrants coming through Ellis Island.  Francesca can't wait to leave behind her abusive father and get her sister some much needed medicine and help.  However, things don't go well for Francesca once she arrives at Ellis Island. Her sister is severely ill and is in limbo there and Francesca finds herself possibly being deported as she has no male family member to account for her or a possible job in America.  Cue Alma.  Alma is an American born German immigrant who is reluctantly working at Ellis Island at her parent's insistence as she is of the age where she must either get a job or get married.  To make matters worse, her parents have an arranged marriage in the works for her with someone who works at Ellis Island. The last thing Alma needs is a marriage as she is a talented linguist and has so much more to offer, especially at Ellis Island. However, if she gets married, she can kiss that all goodbye.  When Alma meets Francesca, she knows she has to help her and from that moment on, their friendship is formed and their lives are changed forever.  Heather Webb's The Next Ship Home is a glimpse into the corruption that surrounded Ellis Island as well as a heartfelt story about the American dream.

Francesca really tugged on my heartstrings in The Next Ship Home. I have family members that went though Ellis Island, so I was immediately intrigued by her journey.  At times it made me sad and other times I was inspired by the spirit and grit of immigrants who only want a better life.  Francesca is dealt some tough hands, but thanks to Alma, she finds that she is able to stay in America despite the fact that she doesn't have a male relative in the U.S. to vouch for her.  Alma hooks her up with a job working for a wealthy man whom Francesca met on the passage over.  While trying to leave Ellis Island, Francesca is put in a very difficult situation and this instance really highlights the actual corruption, especially towards women, that existed at Ellis Island.

Alma, although born in America, has a lot more in common with Francesca than not, even though they share different nationalities.  Alma finds herself at men's mercy many time in The Next Ship Home as well as Francesca, so they bound together to support each other.  Alma finds herself being forced into a marriage with a man who she feels nothing towards, and on top of that, she deals with sexist men at Ellis Island. Alma is talented, but is often overlooked.  I really adored Alma and Francesca's friendship once it truly blossomed and I loved that they had each other's back in an uncertain world.

Webb did a wonderful job bringing Ellis Island to life as well as highlighting the dark side in The Next Ship Home.  The novel was well researched and Webb's depictions of corruption, prejudice, and downright criminal behavior were all very eye-opening.  I actually did not know about the corruption at Ellis Island, so this was alarming at times. It made me worry about my family that went though there and other women that may have been unaccompanied.  However, this story does end on a high note as nothing can really extinguish the power of the American Dream.  If you are interested in learning more about Ellis Island and want to read a historical novel about two strong women, I suggest you pick up The Next Ship Home.  Although I didn't like it as much as Webb's novels when she collaborates with Hazel Gaynor, it was still a solid historical read.

Have you read many novels with an Ellis Island setting? Are you a fan of Heather Webb? Is this book on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below. 


1 comment:

  1. What a great setting! I feel like this novel would teach me so much about Ellis Island.


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