Twelve-year-old Addie witnesses the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago.
The labor protests that led to the conflict between workers and police form the backdrop for this story of an immigrant Jewish family. Politics are unavoidable in Addie’s home. Her uncle Chaim supports workers’ right to strike for an eight-hour day, and her father, owner of a hat shop, opposes unions and fears the anarchy that’s likely to disrupt their peaceful life. When Addie’s little cousin becomes gravely ill, she’s sent for the doctor. Out on the streets of Chicago at night for the first time, she sees the marching laborers, including her uncle. Addie’s limited first-person voice fits her growing awareness of the parallels between the life they left behind in Germany and the social strife in America. The past-tense narrative is sprinkled with her inner thoughts: “Where do I fit into this great city of grit and gold, illness and adventure?” Unfortunately, Addie comes across as more of a vehicle for the historical events than a fully fleshed-out character. The rather dry story is sometimes choppy, and Powell’s unsubtle, repeated use of metaphor—quilts, threads, and even an imagined “bright red line marking the path for her to take”—to capture Addie’s efforts to make sense of events feels stilted.
Despite its flaws, a worthy introduction to an important piece of history. (Historical fiction. 9-13)