Historical Novel Society: Editors’ Choice


In the early 20th century, three immigrants stand aboard a ship sailing into Ellis Island, each with their own dreams about what coming to America will mean for them: Daniel, a Polish boy with a love of language and law, and Lena and Joe, Jewish siblings hoping for a better life. They are about to meet New Yorkers Jake, a rough labor representative, and his dazzling girlfriend, Sophie. Together, they will change one another’s lives in ways no one could imagine. Over the next 50 years, these five friends come into and fall out of one another’s lives through joy and pain, tragedy and triumph. But there is one secret that could tear them apart forever.

The Garment Maker’s Daughter is a beautiful multi-generational epic about life, love and the choices we make. The characters are well drawn, and the plot is refreshingly realistic, allowing both positive and negative occurrences to color the characters’ lives, rather than romantically painting over the rough patches. Stern has obviously done her research, and she effortlessly plants the reader in a variety of historically accurate settings, from stuffy shirtwaist factory workrooms to a cozy hotel in the Catskills and the opulent dining halls of the political elite. She keeps the reader on track with a few real-life event tie-ins, but the crux of the story is the relationships of its main characters, and they do not disappoint. The expert pacing kept me turning pages, and Stern’s engaging plot had me hooked until the very last page. I highly recommend this wonderful tale of life, love and the struggle to be true to oneself as a book everyone should read.