When We Were Strangers is a Spring 2011 Selection for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program, a Book-of-the-Month Club and Doubleday Book Club alternate selection for January, 2011.
For blog reviews and interviews on When We Were Strangers, please see the “Online reviews” to your right and click “see all.”
“Schoenewaldt’s heartbreaking debut is the late 19th century immigrant coming-of-age story of poor, plain Irma Vitale…Irma’s adventures and redeeming evolution make this a serious book club contender.” — Publishers Weekly
“Lucid, unembellished prose that draws your attention to what’s important…When We Were Strangers transports you convincingly into Irma Vitale’s life as she journeys toward self-discovery, toward a place to belong, toward love.” — Michael Knight, author of The Typist
“I was caught up in this compelling tale from page one. In vivid and inventive prose Pamela Schoenewaldt spins out the story of immigrant Irma Vitale’s odyssey from her tiny Italian village to the jostling crowds of urban America in the l880s–a heroine of courage and grit in a time of tumultuous change and opportunity. I was eager to follow every twist and turn. As a reader and frequent reviewer I long for this kind of lovely prose. A cut above.” — Carolly Erickson, author of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette
“Readable and engaging…The language is deceptively simple, the people as real as your own family, and the tale realistic enough to be any American’s …This is a story that is not finished simply because the reader has reached the last page–a memorable novel.” — Nancy E. Turner, author of These is My Words
When We Were Strangers will be one of this year’s cherished memorable novels. Schoenewaldt is a dramatically exciting storyteller who has a velcro like ability to hold on to an audience throughout. Her characters are destined to attain literary immortality, they breathe beyond the final chapter. Two women stand out as formidable in their own way: Irma both victim and survivor and Sofia, savior and mentor. Whether random, kismet or some divine encounter, when Irma and Sofia meet, their relationship is powerful and inspiring. The story reflects the immigrant experience unique to America and the multicultural composite of its citizens. Once valued and celebrated, this diversity was the foundation of this country, adopting an appropriate motto, e pluribus unum (out of many one). Today, rather than shrinking, the gap of intolerance of others difference has become extreme, a disturbing trend. Reading this novel one might question how civil we are today, two centuries later? Further, when will tolerance emerge from this apex of intolerance and the prodigious prejudice still with us today? Pamela Schoenewaldt, a propitious and pensive writer who will no doubt leave readers anticipating her next book. Until then, don’t miss her debut. — Bookworm’s Dinner
When We Were Strangers, a first novel by Knoxville writer Pamela Schoenewaldt, relates the poignant story of a young Italian needleworker who leaves her isolated mountain home to make a new life in late-19th-century America, and in the telling, the author weaves a rich, multicolored tapestry. Knoxville News Sentinel, Jan. 23, 2011.
“In her debut novel, Pamela Schoenewaldt tells a vivid tale of hardship and hard work” — Review by Faye Jones for Chapter 16.
“My grandmother emigrated to the U.S. from Southern Italy in the early 1900s. . . . She never spoke about her journey, despite my many questions . . . .but I now have the next best thing—Pamela Schoenewaldt’s beautiful novel, When We Were Strangers, that tells the story of a young Italian woman, Irma Vitale, who leaves her village in Southern Italy to come to America.” Charlene Giannetti in Woman Around Town.