Beyond the Island
by Joy Lizbeth Holmquist

"Helga couldn’t understand the family separations, except for the obvious thought that came to her mind."

In the early 20th century, two families an ocean apart have tragedies that will combine to bring their children together. In Pennsylvania, Erik’s father perishes in a mining cave-in that brings him home from his apprenticeship to take care of his family. In Germany, a drunken assault on Helga’s mother ends her life and forces Helga and her siblings to live with their aunt and uncle. The worsening conditions in Germany between the two World Wars put pressure on the adults, and Helga’s uncle Karl decides that the family will pack up and emigrate to America to avoid the collapsing economy. Helga is separated from her siblings and forced to live with a different aunt and uncle on a farm as she tries to adapt to life in a new country. But then she crosses path with a young man named Erik.

Though a work of fiction, this story seeks to combine all of the human elements that so many American immigrants shared at this tumultuous time in European history. Historical details, culture, religion, and family all play a part in defining the characters of Erik, Helga, and their families. Whether through details of 19th-century Germany, Prussia, Austria, or Poland or what life was like being processed through Ellis Island in the 1920s, readers will likely be surprised by some human perspective that they had not previously considered thanks to the comforts of a globalized, modern life. Earnest and heart-warming, the details of this story are often sad and tragic, but readers should be inspired by the main characterss belief in a just and happy ending to their struggles as a result of their hard work and faith.

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