Review: Grace’s Pictures: An Ellis Island Novel -by Cindy Thomson

Grace’s Pictures
an Ellis Island Novel by Cindy Thomson

*Grace’s Pictures Book 1 of Cindy Thomson’s Ellis Island Series
Published June 2013
Tyndale House Publishers

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Author Cindy Thomson’s intriguing thoughts that initiated the novel:  The legacies of those who came before us has always enthralled me. I am interested in history and how the events impacted us. In Grace’s Pictures the introduction of the Brownie Camera changed photography forever. Now everyone had access and could snap pictures at will. What if that got someone in trouble?


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Grace McCaffery hopes the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader.

A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness. – Tyndale House Publishers backcover


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Fascinating look into the life of Grace, a newly arrived Irish immigrant to America, at the turn of the century in 1900-1901. The effects of her father’s emotional and psychological abuse have long lasting and far reaching effects. At nineteen she is still dealing with the emotional scars and valiantly battling the lies that rise to confront her every step into her future in this new land.

I longed for Grace to make the right choices. To stand up strong. To learn to trust. To believe God’s truth about her, so well put in her mother’s mantra, “I am smart. I am important. I am able.” that sustains her, until the final revelation in her ma’s song over her as a child. From Be Thou My Vision, ” Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one”.  The final recognition that her earthly father’s constant criticism didn’t determine her worth. Her heavenly Father’s perspective is what mattered.

Leaving behind a life spent in the workhouse, longing for safety in her new country, Grace finds a haven at her home provided by the Benevolents.  But not outside that home. Greed of landlords taking advantage of immigrants’ housing needs, corruption amongst the police force, predators on naive and needy newcomers. Grace’s own belittling experiences during hiring and poor treatment by employers whilst working as a maid; finding her way in every new area of life – massive adjustments, relational misunderstandings, confrontations, and losses, yet Grace perseveres. 
And we’re treated to the inside story of her courageous journey.

Her fascination with being photographed upon entry at Ellis Island leads to personal growth and joy once she pursues the hobby. A mailorder magazine ad offering the Kodak Brownie camera for $1 definitely brings it within her reach.  With the instruction book included along with 2 rolls of film, Grace is set. Yet this too proves unsafe when she photographs the wrong members of NY society. Stalked, pursued and harassed Grace faces dangerous consequences. 
No, definitely not the safe country she hoped for and believed she’d found.

One insightful moment in the book  grabbed me personally.  
Irish policeman, Owen’s, revelation on ‘waiting’.
Whilst taking comfort in Psalm 106, Owen read of the Hebrew ancestors who wouldn’t wait for Adonai’s counsel, coming into trouble as a result .  This settled his own responses to confusing life choices . 

It impacted me likewise in the reading.

A full story of Grace’s experiences, suspense, and subplots.  
All bring the story to the loveliest romantically subtle closing. 
I re-read it several times just to repeat the enjoyment!

Great summer reading addition for those who like their historical stories with realistic details, authentic characters, and a side of romance… 


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*Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for providing an ebook copy to read and review without obligation.

*Reviewed for the TYndale Summer Reading Program and * Tyndale Rewards Program of Free books and audiobooks. Receive your 1st 25 Rewards points FREE by joining HERE*

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