• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 5, 2015)
From the USA Today bestselling author of When We Were Strangers and Swimming in the Moon comes a lush, exquisitely drawn novel set against the turmoil of the Great War, as a young German-American woman explores the secrets of her past.
A shopkeeper’s daughter, Hazel Renner lives in the shadows of the Pittsburgh steel mills. She dreams of adventure, even as her immigrant parents push her toward a staid career. But in 1914, war seizes Europe and all their ambitions crumble. German-Americans are suddenly the enemy, “the Huns.” Hazel herself is an outsider in her own home when she learns the truth of her birth.
Desperate for escape, Hazel takes a teaching job in a seemingly tranquil farming community. But the idyll is cracked when she acquires a mysterious healing power—a gift that becomes a curse as the locals’ relentless demand for “miracles” leads to tragedy.
Hazel, determined to find answers, traces her own history back to a modern-day castle that could hold the truth about her past. There Hazel befriends the exiled, enigmatic German baron and forges a bond with the young gardener, Tom. But as America is shattered by war and Tom returns battered by shell-shock, Hazel’s healing talents alone will not be enough to protect those close to her, or to safeguard her dreams of love and belonging. She must reach inside to discover that sometimes the truth is not so far away, that the simplest of things can lead to the extraordinary.
Filled with rich historical details and intriguing, fully realized characters, Under the Same Blue Sky is the captivating story of one woman’s emergence into adulthood amid the tumult of war.
Hazel Renner is a German-American living in Pittsburgh with her parents at the dawn of the Great War. Hazel longs for more and feels restless within the steel city. Her parents hold on to the American Dream for her and want her to go to school to be a doctor. They believe that Hazel has the healing touch since she has a way with her father’s headaches. Hazel follows her own dreams and takes a teaching position at a one room schoolhouse in the country. Hazel feels like she is fitting in and doing well at the school until someone there discovers her healing touch also; when the rumors start to fly, Hazel is asked to move on. As the effects of war reach American, the German-Americans are ostracized, called “Huns” and Hazel’s father feels the death of every soldier. Hazel returns to her family and learns a tightly-held secret of her birth; now with another dream to chase, she sets off to find a German Baron’s castle in New Jersey to find the ghosts of her past.
From the very first paragraph, I was captivated by Under The Same Blue Sky, I knew Hazel was going to be special as she painted and described memories of a grand castle that her mother dismissed as dreams. The story begins as a great piece of historical fiction, the writing emotionally capturing and describing the immigrant experience and the discrimination they face; Hazel’s name is changed from Hilde to seem ‘more American’ and her father reads the German newspaper behind an American newspaper. The characters were all very real, raw and complex. Hazel’s father was the most intense for me as he took to heart every death and dealt with every blow from the discrimination he received from being a German-American. Hazel’s character intrigued me more as the story progressed, her ‘healing touch’ drew me in, but as a person Hazel was determined and intelligent. I enjoyed watching her mature as she found herself and her history. Some things could have been resolved a little more at the end for me, but overall this was a great mix of historical fiction and magical realism.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
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Pamela Schoenewaldt lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy, and the United States. She now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a physicist, and Jesse, their dog.
Find out more about Pamela at her website, keep up with her on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook.