Threads and Flames

Written by Esther Friesner
Review by Cindy Vallar

After recovering from an illness in 1910, 13-year-old Raisa emigrates from Poland to New York. Instead of a happy reunion with her sister, Raisa learns that Henda believes she’s dead, and has disappeared. Determined to find her sister and succeed in her new country, and with the unexpected charge of caring for a motherless child named Brina, Raisa struggles to locate a job and a place to live. Gavrel, who’s studying to become a rabbi, takes them home, and his parents offer the girls a place to stay. Raisa eventually finds work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, but a horrible fires sweeps through the factory in 1911, trapping Raisa, Gavrel, and several friends. In the terrible aftermath, no one remains unscathed.

Written for readers ten and older, Threads and Flames is a compelling account of an immigrant’s experiences. Raisa copes with feelings of isolation – being away from the village and those she’s known all her life, the loss of her sister, the inability to communicate because she doesn’t speak English – while encountering prejudice and tenement life in a strange, new place. Readers experience all this, the fire, and its consequences through her eyes in this deftly woven and not-soon-forgotten tale of hardship, romance, and hope.