Auch, Mary Jane. Ashes of Roses. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf, 2002. Print.
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This book is historical fiction. It's another book I've had on my shelf for a few years and decided THIS is the summer to read it. It is about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that happened March 25, 1911, but it really isn't just about that because the fire doesn't happen in the story until page 204.
This is really a story about the resilience of humans. Margaret Rose Nolan and her family immigrate from Ireland to the United States. Upon arriving, the youngest Nolan child is denied admittance because he has trachoma (a descriptive passage explains this very painful process of how this is found). Da decides to return with the boy and leaves Ma and the three girls in New York to meet up with his brother Patrick.
Uncle Patrick's family is none too happy to receive these "dirty" relatives (Auch 47). The women stay there for a brief time until it is decided they must return to Ireland. Living in the United States just isn't working. At the dock, Margaret (now just Rose) and Maureen talk their mother into letting them stay. I can't imagine what a decision that was for the mother!
Rose is smart, but she doesn't know the ways of this new country. She befriends Gussie (or perhaps Gussie befriends her) and Rose begins work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where she earns $6 a week for long hours.
Auch does a wonderful job describing in the book:
- the process of entering the country (I was worried that the family would be separated as they herded from one hallway into the next.),
- the working conditions of the factory,
- the hopes and aspirations of immigrants wanting the streets in America to be paved with gold, only to find that they weren't,
- the "unsavory" characters that prey upon those that don't know or don't have a voice to protest
I can tell that Auch did her research while creating this story. The descriptions are just too real to not be true. She also doesn't allow for a "happily ever after" ending because that would be disrespectful to those 146 people who died at the Asch Building.