Broken Ground

Broken GroundBroken Ground by Karen Halvorsen Schreck
Genres: Historical
Published by Howard Books on May 3, 2016
Pages: 336

 

Publisher’s Summary:

Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town. She’s making a home when she learns that her young husband, Charlie, has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.

At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with some old family friends, she meets the striking and compelling Thomas Everly, whose own losses and struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp just east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the forced deportation of Mexican migrant workers due to the Repatriation Act put into place during President Herbert Hoover’s administration.

After Ruth is forced to leave school, she goes to visit Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—all while promising to love and cherish one another. 

Karen Halvorsen Schreck is a new author for me, but now that I’ve read Broken Ground, I will definitely be on the lookout for her previous releases and any to come. Compelling historical events and a lyrical, flowing writing style make for one engaging story. The author brought together my favorite two things about historical fiction – a basis in true events and an endearing, empathetic main character. Ruth Warren’s first person narration is lovely, and she is one of my favorite characters that I’ve “met” this year. Her voice is strong and feels authentic. I felt her joys and pains as she experienced them. This is not a book to breeze through in a day, but rather one to savor. Ruth’s story will certainly be sticking with me for a long time.

Compelling historical events and a lyrical, flowing writing style make for one engaging story.

The repatriation of Mexican migrant workers in the 1930s is not something that I’ve ever read about before. Honestly, when I come across a book like this, I am almost alarmed at my lack of knowledge. I feel that sometimes more unsavory things like this are overlooked, rather than looked at and learned from – the illegal removal of Mexican immigrants, regardless of whether they were in the country illegally or not, is entirely relatable and timely for today. I applaud the author for taking on this subject. She handles these historical events with aplomb and clarity, and I never felt like there was a certain agenda being pushed upon the reader. She also writes in a thoughtful way about Mexican culture; no character comes across a stereotype, but rather feels authentic throughout the novel.

She handles these historical events with aplomb and clarity, and I never felt like there was a certain agenda being pushed upon the reader.

There is a natural ease in the way that the faith element is presented in the story. While it perhaps might feel understated to some readers, I thought it fit well into the story. Ruth and Thomas portray what it means to live out the concept of treating others how you want to be treated, their actions matching the convictions of their faith. This story evokes self-reflection, of both convictions and actions, specifically, of how well those convictions are acted out. Other than their strong convictions, I most appreciated how the story was focused on the plot and the historical significance of the time and not romance. The romantic elements present are lovely and tender, but do not overwhelm the narrative in any way.

This story evokes self-reflection, of both convictions and actions, specifically, of how well those convictions are acted out.

A novel that evokes empathy and turns from narrative to inward reflection is a strong one for me. Broken Ground will both challenge and engage readers with a strong storyline and honest characters. I highly recommend this unique, engrossing and eye-opening novel.

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