A short and sweet coming-of-age historical novel from first-time author Seigh about life in Johnstown, Pa., in the early 20th century–a tumultuous time in America–from a young girl’s point of view.
The book, though slight, covers a lot of ground, including World War I, the women’s movement, Lindbergh’s flight and German-American culture. Seigh also touches on local history, like tragic mining or railroad accidents or feel-good football victories. The author weaves this information together with photographs and news clippings, to give readers a tangible and accurate portrayal of Johnstown from 1914 to 1928. But it’s her engaging young narrator, Doll, who truly brings the epoch to life, sharing her family’s story one year and one chapter at a time. She’s nine years old in 1914–the happy youngest girl in a large German-American family, Doll likes helping her mother and older sister, Lottie, take care of the rest of the clan. But the protagonist’s idyllic childhood ends abruptly when her mother passes away, leaving the two sisters to run the household. Doll’s experiences during the next 14 years–struggling to care for her father and brothers, managing school and making money, gaining independence in adulthood–provide an intimate lens for readers to better understand a historical period. Her lively opinions, description of household chores and conversations with family and friends all give great insight into the life of a girl on the brink of womanhood nearly 100 years ago. By 1928, at age 23, Doll is still caring for her family, but change is on the horizon. She cuts her hair in an act of feminist rebellion, her older sister gets married and her brothers are, for the most part, on their own. It’s time for Doll to take care of herself. Will she find love? Will she move out of Johnstown? Sadly, Seigh doesn’t give readers the opportunity to find out, as the book ends rather swiftly–hopefully the author has a sequel in mind.
A local treasure for young and old.