Sometimes, for unknown reasons, books will languish at the bottom of to-be-read stacks, get shoved to the back of shelves, or hidden underneath piles of enticing best sellers.
Sadly, that happened to A Young Wife, by Pam Lewis, a novel I unearthed from beneath a stack of paperbacks, library books, and review books. Little did I know what a gem had been lying in wait for me.
This book – with a very stunning cover, I must say – arrived in the mail one day, unbidden, from Simon and Schuster. Not an ARC, but a full-fledged, newly published hardbound. When I get review books that I haven’t requested, I’m sometimes a bit leery. And even though the blurb sounded like the kind of book I usually love – a historical novel set in the early 1900’s about a young Dutch girl who marries an older man and goes to live in the wilds of Argentina – for some reason I kept passing it by when it was time to choose a new book.
I decided to give it a go the other night, and I am so glad I did.
The novel was “inspired” by the “secret past” of the authors own grandmother, whose stories of life as a young bride in a place called Comodoro Rivadavia were filled with adventure, excitement, and beauty. But there was also a sense of mystery about her grandmother that author Kim Lewis wanted to explore. Why had she married so young (age 15)? Why had her grandparents immigrated to Argentina in the first place? Why did Lewis’ mother never utter her father’s name?
These kinds of questions are wonderful fuel for a writers imagination, and Lewis set them to work in this fascinating, fast paced tale of young Minke van Aisma, whose ordinary life in a small fishing village is catapulted into adventure when Sander DeVries, a wealthy merchant, hires her as live-in caregiver for his wife. Soon after his wife Elizabeth dies, Sander proposes marriage to Minke, and the two set off for the oil fields of Argentina.
Buy why would a 15-year-old girl marry a middle aged man she barely knows? Lewis does a fine job of portraying the secret attraction Minke has for Sander, the way a young girl can be attracted to the strength and sexual wisdom of an older man. And when Minke’s baby son is kidnapped and everything begins to go awry, the reader watches A Young Wife become a young woman with astounding courage and strength.
From Amsterdam to Argentina to America, this novel delivers in character, plot, and history.
I’m so happy it was still waiting for me there in my bookstack.
What’s the best book you’ve ever let languish in your TBR pile? Leave a comment with the title below for a chance to win a copy of A Young Wife. Winner will be chosen at random on Monday, April 23.