3 out of 4 stars
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Mind Changer by Patricia Sabella is a compelling historical fiction set in the early 1900s. Through this narrative, readers get to walk through the streets of Sciacca, Italy, and witness life in the tenements of Boston and every place in between that the characters explored.
Leaving her little home village for America, Mina was excited by the prospect of seeing her brother again and finally meeting the man she was set to marry. Though she initially had reservations about getting married, she hoped that her new life and future husband would be good. Sadly, the young and naïve Mina would be up for a rude awakening and quickly learn some harsh realities of life. On the other side, her friend, Fiona, who had escaped tragic circumstances in Ireland, would find herself weathering a different storm in New York. Unfortunately, her attempts to pave an entirely new life for herself would lead her to life and death situations.
The narrative has a fascinating set of characters whose stories run parallel to each other. The shift in focus to multiple protagonists created an air of suspense and anticipation of what would happen next. This aspect of the narrative kept me keenly turning pages. It was also intriguing to learn how the title of the book correlated to one particular character and how it fits with her story.
One of my favorite characters was Fiona because she was a force to be reckoned with. She stayed resilient through events that could have left her broken. Her story, although tragic, was gripping from beginning to end. There was so much I found relatable and likable about her. Mina was also my favorite: I could relate to her indecisiveness, and I liked her good-naturedness.
This is an impressive debut novel by Patricia Sabella. The author brilliantly wove rich historical detail seamlessly throughout the novel’s narrative. The vivid descriptions and eloquent writing will take you back in time. Hop aboard the Cunard steamship and follow the life experiences of some of the characters desperately escaping war-ravaged countries. Stand at the forefront of one of the women’s suffrage marches. Bare witness to the massive destruction caused by the great molasses flood. When it came to the deadly Spanish flu, it was interesting for me to draw comparisons to the response, reactions, myths, and handling of the disease to that of COVID-19 a little over a hundred years later. While reading of the pandemic that occurred back then, I couldn’t help but feel like history had indeed repeated itself, and it’s sad that after all this time much hasn’t changed.
Though the story was compelling and the author’s writing skills evident, there were so many errors strewn throughout the narrative. Some of the errors include grammar mistakes, misuse of homonyms, lack of spacing between words, and misspellings of characters' names. All things considered, I rate this book a generous 3 out of 4 stars. The errors were quite distracting, and the novel would benefit from the hands of a professional editor. However, this is a worthwhile read for fans of historical fiction, and I can’t recommend it enough to fans of the genre. Readers who are keen on themes of discrimination, racism, immigration, war, and family drama may also enjoy this one.
The Mind Changer
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