Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on May 1, 2002
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Read From: 2.8.12 - 2.10.12
When sixteen-year-old Rose Nolan arrives on Ellis Island in 1911, she sees before her a land of opportunities. But after part of her family is sent back to Ireland, unable to set foot on American soil, Rose is left to fend for herself and her younger sister. Even so, Rose's will to succeed overpowers her feelings of homesickness, and before long she throws herself into the hard-knock life of factory work.
From basic day-to-day survival to friendships with other immigrants, Rose finds America a strange and curious place. Then just when she starts to feel settled in her new home, the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire rushes into Rose's life, bringing with it pain and tragedy. Where can she turn when everything around her is in ashes? And how will she find the courage to continue on in America?
A well-written immigration story which also encompasses one of the saddest tragedies in history, Ashes of Roses was not at all disappointing when it comes to an engaging read. The Author so thoroughly captured the terror and confusion and devastation - and the horrible loss - that the Shirwaist Factory fire caused. It's an intense moment in the book, which is entirely fitting, since it is the climax. The Reader goes into the book anticipating this particular moment, and the Author pulled it off impressively.
As well as this successful scene, the Author paints a vivid and interesting picture of 1911 New York. From the disembarking of immigrants on Ellis Island, to creepy sweat shops, and even the swankier neighborhoods. Rose is a fairly promising heroine, who does her best to support her sister when she stays behind with Rose in America, though her lack of "street smarts" gets a little irritating, especially when she doesn't listen to those people who do have "street smarts." She doesn't stick up for herself very well in situations that are begging for a young woman who isn't afraid to show gumption, but she gets a little better after a time.
As a whole, Ashes of Roses is a good historical novel, even with its rather obvious accusation against the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory being more than a little responsible for the girls' deaths, and the pro-union messages. But for the most part, it's good.