This young adult novel, first published in 1983, follows the lives of a number of mostly Jewish immigrants who are sailing on the SS Danzig to the promised land of America. The year is 1904, and conditions in Eastern Europe are not good for Jews. While each character, young or old, has his or her own reason for coming to America, all see it as a place of hope, though they realize the streets are not truly paved with gold. We meet Mina, who travels with her mother and her brother to be reunited with her father. The bully Yankel will also be reunited with his father, but this is not a reason for celebration. There is Golda and her new baby—Golda manages to keep neat despite the terrible conditions in steerage, but can’t keep her baby from hunger when her milk dries up. Then there is Rachel, whose true love has been murdered back home—will she have another chance at happiness? And everyone wonders what it will really be like for them in this new country. Will their relatives be waiting? Will they find jobs?
Geras has written a moving story that provides enough detail to explain why all these people would undertake this frightening voyage in dreadful conditions. However, hope takes precedence, and I longed to find out just how each of these deftly portrayed characters coped with their new lives. Highly recommended. Ages 12 and up.
145 (US), 128 (UK)