Monday, September 28, 2015

Stein House by Myra Hargrave McIlvain

Stein House is the story of a German woman, Helga Heinrich, who brings her family to Indianola Texas in the mid-1850’s to manage her sister’s boarding house. This is in fact the story of a family living day-to-day, surviving. But just as our lives are sometimes mundane and sometimes spiked with drama so too are the days of the characters in this book.  

Helga’s alcoholic husband doesn’t make it past page one, drowning in a boozy attempt to jump aboard the ship sailing from Germany. So Helga and her four young children begin their trip to America grieving and uneasy, arriving at a point in history punctuated by turmoil. The shipping industry in Indianola is growing quickly. Texas is going through a painful birth. Devastating tropical storms and disease are battering citizens living on the Texas coast, and the politics and horror of slavery are threatening to tear the nation apart - a ripe setting for drama, which Austin author Myra Hargrave McIlvain (pictured) commendably delivers with just the right measure of shock, pace and grace through the vessels of the story, the characters.

Helga Heinrich’s family, strangers and we the readers become part of the Stein House extended family as we share the daily dinner, and the fear, anger, loss and hope of life. And it is this emotional buy-in, all presented in the context of a vibrant Texas history, that makes Stein House a book you won’t want to put down.

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