Published by Living Springs Publishers Llp on April 15th 2020
1890's Colorado. Desperate following her mother's sudden death, thirteen-year-old Hannah Owens apprentices as domestic help with a wealthy doctor's family in Colorado Springs. When the doctor declares bankruptcy and abandons his family to finance his mistress Pearl DeVere's brothel, however, Hannah is thrown into a vortex of gold mining bonanzas and busts, rampant prostitution, and the economic, political and cultural upheavals of the era. Two of Cripple Creek's most colorful historic characters, Winfield Scott Stratton, eccentric owner of the richest gold mine in Cripple Creek, and Pearl DeVere, the beautiful madam of The Old Homestead, come to life as this old-fashioned, coming-of-age saga unfolds, the first of two historical fiction novels by debut author Mim Eichmann -- a tribute to the women who set the stage for women's rights.
Thanks to TheWriteReads and the author for the review copy as part of the book tour. All opinions are my own. I want to start with content warnings for rape, murder, and racism.
I initially wasn’t sure if I should sign up since historical novels aren’t my most read genres but I used to read them a lot. I thought this would be a nice way to get back into the genre. I went in blind as I forgot the blurb since signing up. I prefer to go in blind, especially for book tours, but I realise that my expectations also have to be managed halfway through.
A Sparrow Alone is a coming-of-age story about Hannah Owens, and it’s based on real characters. That’s what piqued my interest, but it also meant the story dealt with social issues often seen in historical books like misogyny, rape, and racism. I’d say it’s not a light read. And not just because of the themes of the book. The writing itself can be dense with a lot of exposition. Information dumps about the circumstances, the goings-on of the families in town, or the gold prospecting politics. I skipped sections of these, especially the ones outside of conversations.
Hannah’s character is another thing I didn’t like, although it only came to me after I finished the book. It seems like she hardly has any feelings regarding the things that happen to her. The death of her mother, the rape by Grady, or the praise on her audition. While these events could have a lasting impact on a person (see Pearl DeVere arc, or even Win Stratton’s back story), it doesn’t seem to affect Hannah much. Her reaction to Pearl DeVere’s suicide is the most genuine I’ve read, but this might only be because they discovered the body. Hannah seems to be in love with Mr Stratton although I haven’t seen it, nor can I say when this started. She doesn’t seem to be a calculating woman like Mrs Hughes, so the lack of emotion at some points in the story felt strange.
But Hannah’s story is admirable. Her journey from the mills to an aspiring singer to becoming a teacher was worth the read. I’m glad she didn’t end up as permanent entertainment in a brothel, especially after the rape. She chose to be more than that. Even despite her unfortunate circumstances, she made the best of it. I’m reminded again why I enjoyed historical novels. It’s by far the easiest way to learn about other people’s lives in countries far away, at different times.
I give A Sparrow Alone three stars. While the story is interesting, the execution could’ve been better, I think. It’s easier to recommend to fans of historical fiction than readers who only read it every so often, like me.