After enjoying Cindy Thomson‘s Grace’s Pictures, book 1 in her Ellis Island series, I eagerly hopped on over to the local e-library to borrow Annie’s Stories upon discovering she had published a second novel in the series. Annie’s Stories did not disappoint, but I don’t think I’ll count it as a favorite, unlike Grace’s story.
Slight spoilers: Annie flees Ireland and family misery after her storyteller father’s death, taking only his writing desk and stories with her. She finds a position as a housekeeper for a boarding house run by a kind older woman, and dreams of honoring her father’s memory in a tangible way.
Stephen, the local postman, fancies Annie and enjoys discussing books with her, especially The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is published during the period in which this novel is set. As you might expect, their relationship is one of the prominent threads in the book’s plot.
I liked this story–especially the focus on storytelling and family relationships–but some aspects of it were less believable than Grace’s Pictures (which I recommend, by the way!). For example, Stephen took Annie’s father’s stories (first by accident, then later intentionally), and she was furious and felt betrayed by him. But a few chapters later, Annie’s attitude had changed and she chose to enter into a deeper relationship with Stephen, despite her lack of trust in him only a few pages before. Also, Stephen was constantly doing things and taking action on Annie’s behalf, without really knowing her or asking her opinion–or permission–to do such things for her. That made Annie bristle, yet he continued to do so, over and over again.
The most unbelievable part, though, was that Annie and Stephen did not actually know each other that well or spend much time together, either before the novel begins or during its course. And, that time period (1901) was one of propriety’s constraints and caution between men and women, leading to longer and slower-moving relationships. Yet they somehow managed to develop romantic feelings for one another, and to decide by the story’s conclusion to pursue a courtship together!
I really enjoyed the family relationships and storytelling of Annie’s Stories. The historical setting and details were wonderful, especially the neighborhood community, the inclusion of L. Frank Baum’s Oz writings, and the Ellis Island aspect of this novel. So if you enjoy historical settings in your fiction reading, this is a great series to pick up!
Overall, I’d rate this novel of Thomson’s as 3.5/5.0. It was well-written and clearly Thomson did her research on the time period. However, the relationship between Annie and Stephen wasn’t quite as developed as to be realistic, especially for the era.
Recommended for: Readers who enjoy Christian fiction with some romance added in; fans of faith- and family-themed stories; those who favor historical fiction with a strong faith component.
Caution: This novel contains some violence and retelling of inappropriate behavior, as well as inhumane treatment within institutions. I would advise only adult or mature readers pick up this book. There’s nothing R-rated, but it is slightly more mature than a PG-13 rating allows for.