Read with Sharon - August 2022
The Next Ship Home - Heather Webb
From the first page, this story tugs at your heart strings. I knew after the first chapter that I would select it for one of our book club reads.
Having spent a great deal of my career working in Federal immigration, I found this depiction of Ellis Island and the country’s immigration process one hundred years ago both fascinating and horrifying. And with my German roots, I could really relate to Alma’s character and her internal conflict between knowing what she was expected to do and doing the right thing. The strong character of Alma and Francesca is empowering and relevant in so many ways to our world today.
Please note that this month, we are making a change to our normal meeting date.
The author Heather Webb will join our book club meeting on Wednesday, August 31 at 7pm EDT. Please mark your calendar to join us for a most enlightening discussion. Until then, I hope you enjoy The Next Ship Home. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
Buy the Book
This book was absolutely fantastic! Through the perspectives of two women one either side of the immigration line, I learned so much about Ellis Island in the early 1900s!
Francesca has been through a harrowing journey with her sister across the ocean to arrive at America’s doorstep. Excited and nervous, her expectations are quickly reduced to nothing as everything goes wrong. Then she meets Alma, and they form a bond that takes the reader through this fantastic story.
The narration alternates between Francesca and Alma’s perspectives, giving us first view insight into each woman’s life. For Francesca, a lot of the story is about the horrors of trying to get through Ellis Island, but when she does get off, she still has to secure a job and a place to live. Francesca’s success in getting through Ellis was helped along by Alma. I would never call this girl spoiled, but we see her grow up a lot as the story progresses. She connects with Francesca and becomes determined to ensure that Francesca is successful in America.
Fascinating, compelling, and memorable!
The Next Ship Home is an immersive tale that sweeps you away to New York City during 1902 and into the life of two women, Francesca Ricci, a young Italian girl who dreams of a better life in America only to suffer persecution and unimaginable loss in the shadows of the statue of liberty, and Alma Brauer, a young American woman with a passion for languages and a new job on Elis Island that, she quickly learns is not a place for immigrants to feel welcome and supported, but rather a building where corruption is rampant and abuse is prolific.
The prose is vivid and rich. The characters are flawed, driven, and engaging. And the plot is a poignant, tender tale of life, loss, love, hope, prejudice, politics, family, sacrifices, tragedy, abusive power, successes, and female friendship.
Overall, The Next Ship Home is an absorbing, moving, beautifully written tale by Webb inspired by real-life events that, at its heart, highlights that sometimes a little kindness, a bit of luck, and a lot of hard work and determination can make a world of difference, and reminds us that even though we’ve come so far when it comes to exclusion and racism, we still have a ways to go.
The Next Ship Home - Heather Webb
Book Club Questions
THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY
What did you think about Alma and Francesca?
- What would cause you to leave your home to a new country?
THE STORY PLOT
- Francesca and Maria are first denied entry to the U.S. because they have no male relatives to meet them and no employment arranged. What was the reasoning behind these limiting policies? How do they compare to modern immigration requirements?
- Alma’s first instinct is to report all types of corruption she sees—from the vendor giving incorrect change, to matrons resorting to physical violence. Still, her coworkers repeatedly convince her not to say anything. What persuaded her to keep quiet? Would you have done something different in her place?
- Did any part of the story make you uncomfortable?
- Did it work for you? What would you have changed?
- What do you think is the author’s message to readers of The Next Ship Home?
- What did you take away from the book?
- Are you left with any questions?
SYMBOLISM AND FORESHADOWING
- Did you notice any symbolism?
- What foreshadowing did you notice? Coat-closet scene comes to mind.
- Use one adjective to describe the writing itself.
- What would you change if you could rewrite The Next Ship Home?
- What did you love most about the book?
- Did the book change any views/opinions that you have?