AMERICAN PHOENIX by Sarah S. Kilborne


The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, a Man Who Turned Disaster into Destiny
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Biography of William Skinner, “a leading founder of the American silk industry,” from Skinner’s great-great-granddaughter.

In her first book for adults, Kilborne (Leaving Vietnam, 1999, etc.) spends particular time on an event that could have destroyed Skinner’s company. Just as he was in the midst of expanding his successful business in Skinnerville, a flood wiped out the entire village. He lost his mill, his home and his money, but managed to come back even stronger, building a better mill and expanding his business more than would have been possible without the flood. Kilborne describes Skinner’s young life and move to America from England in enough detail to give a sense of his character and invest readers in his fate. As the day of the flood approached, Skinner was excited about the future of not just his company, but of the American silk industry as a whole. Kilborne revels in the weeks immediately following the devastating flood, explaining the plights of Skinner and his community. She paints a vivid picture of the seemingly insurmountable hurdles, though she does dwell on these points longer than necessary. Kilborne keeps Skinner’s final decision tantalizingly out of reach, giving readers an accurate sense of the anxiety, confusion and overwhelming curiosity his fellow villagers must have felt while they waited to learn whether he would rebuild again, and where. This knack for making readers feel as though they are contemporaries of the Skinner family will keep the pages turning through the slower sections.

A compelling, comprehensive biography of a man who contributed much to American manufacturing—perfect for readers who like to root for the underdog.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-7179-7
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2012


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