Sunday, August 21, 2016

678 (2016 #33). The Woman in the Photo

by Mary Hogan

The title and premise of this book intrigued me - trying to figure out who your ancestor was with only a photo.

The story has two connected narrative lines.  The historical fiction is set in 1888 and 1889 in and near Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  Elizabeth Haberlin is the about-to-debut daughter of a doctor to the wealthy, and they spend their summers with them at the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club.  The club was located above Johnstown on Lake Conemaugh, which was formed by the South Fork Dam owned by the club.

The "present day" story is set in southern California. Adoptee Lee Parker is turning 18 and gets to see some information from her closed adoption - including a peek at an old photograph of a woman who looks like her standing next to Clara Barton.  Lee is determined to find out who the unknown woman is, which provides the connection between the two narratives.

Of the two stories, Elizabeth's was far more interesting.  I'm not sure why author Mary Hogan included Lee's story, except perhaps to make the Johnstown Flood tale she wanted to tell more accessible to the young adult audience she usually writes for.  I thought it interesting that in an "about this book" afterword, the author says nothing about the present-day tale.

Nevertheless (and despite a rather didactic attitude about blame), I would recommend this book for its coverage of this less-known disaster.  It made me want to read more about it.  The chapters narrated by Elizabeth also include period photos of the Club and of Johnstown, which add much to the book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.]

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