Joan, who is 14, has had to quit school and work to support her father and brothers on their poor Pennsylvania farm. It's 1911. Joan's mother has died and she is the only one to do the "woman's work" that her brutal father demands. Joan wants nothing more than to go to school and become a teacher. It's what her mother had planned for her too.
Joan devises a plan and using money that her mother hid in her doll, Joan runs away to Baltimore. She is taken in by a Jewish family to be their hired girl. At $6 per week, Joan, who now goes by Janet, feels like she is well on her way to financial independence. She becomes attached to this family, even though she's never met anyone Jewish before. She works hard and also makes some serious mistakes.
The Hired Girl moves at a slow, methodical pace. It's written in the form of a diary, which adds to the atmosphere. There's a forbidden romance and some tense moments, but mostly the tone is very even. I'm not sure if that's the right word, but suffice it to say that my heart didn't ever pound. I never cried. I was never frightened. It kept my interest, though, and was very entertaining.
The Hired Girl is an ALA Notable Book, and has won the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction as well as some other awards for Jewish literature. As I find is often the case with award books, I don't think The Hired Girl will be very popular in my library. However, for the historical fiction reader, this one is not to be missed.
Published by Candlewick, 2015
Copy obtained from the library
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