Reviewed in Resource Links, Volume 11.3.
Excerpts of review by Beth L. Virtanen, Ph.D., in The Finnish American Reporter,
“This is a novel that deals with so much more than the sinking of the steamship… a rich portrait of Finnish life in the early twentieth century in northern Ontario. Saara has problems with her family, with jealousy towards her brother and with fickle friends just like any other girl her age, from any era. Although the main character is a girl, this book would also appeal to boys—especially those fascinated by nautical disasters such as the sinking of the Titanic.”Reviewed in Quill & Quire by Maureen Garvie , October 2005.
The following book review is used by permission from THE CHRONICLE-JOURNAL, Sunday, May 22, 2005 in Thunder Bay, ON, Canada:
Girl’s dream becomes real-life drama
OFF THE SHELF
The story begins in the late winter of 1914, when Saara is a typical schoolgirl, with chores to do at home, a younger brother who pesters her, and a friend who lives nearby – but Saara’s also a girl with a dream.
Saara and her mother dream of travelling to Finland for a family wedding. Saara’s never met her grandparents or other relatives in her parents’ homeland, and her mother wants to be present for her sister’s wedding. They work – her mother as a seamstress, and Saara as her delivery person – to save for the trip, but Saara’s father thinks the family’s first priority should be to buy their own house.
Young as she is, Saara can see that both parents aspire to something they believe is worth sacrificing for in order to do their best for their children. But life becomes more complicated when Saara’s father is fired from his job because of his union activities, and money is tighter than ever. Then the family receives frightening news: Saara’s grandmother in Finland is ill, maybe dying, and suddenly the trip is a reality.
There’s only enough money for Saara, her mother, and her little brother Jussi to travel, so just the three of them take the train to Quebec City to board the Empress of Ireland, a great liner that will take them across the Atlantic. Life on board ship is new and exciting, but the Empress is still in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when rammed by another ship. Saara is separated from her mother, and has to try to save herself in this disaster.
To give away more of the story would perhaps spoil it for young readers, but Autio has researched the sinking of the Empress of Ireland thoroughly, and stays within the realm of possibility when tying her fiction to the facts of the marine disaster.>
This is a terrific book, and a polished story by an author new to the Canadian literary scene, but with a wonderful future ahead.
Her characters are entirely believable, and she’s woven documented events into her story beautifully, right down to giving a name to the Kivela Bakery delivery-wagon horse. Autio has managed to capture the early maturity of those children who are the first generation born in a new country; children bridge that gap between the old country and the new. Saara is just a child, but is part of business transactions and has to be present to act as an interpreter in situations that require her to be far more mature than her actual age.
Karen Autio will be at the Finnish Bookstore, 1-3 p.m. Saturday, May 28 to sign copies of her new book and to meet new fans and old friends.
The following book review is used by permission from The Capital News Showcase, June 2-8, 2005 in Kelowna, BC, Canada
Book brings historical event to life
by Judie Steeves
The best way to educate is to involve the student, and that’s exactly what Karen Autio of Kelowna does in her first book, Second Watch.
This is a historical novel, aimed at ages eight to 13, and it’s difficult to put down, whatever your age.
Instead of just relating the story of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland (Canada’s worst maritime disaster in peacetime), Autio describes it through the eyes of 11-year-old Saara Maki…
The 91st anniversary of the sinking of the steamship at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River was last Sun., May 29.
More than 1,000 passengers lost their lives and more than 400 were saved in that 1914 disaster.
Autio says she was inspired to delve into that event when she was given a silver spoon from her Finnish grandmother that her Finnish friend claimed was saved from the Titanic. She found that the Titanic wasn’t the only ship sunk in the history of that friend’s family. Members of the Finnish immigrant family had also perished on the Empress of Ireland.
It was enough to get Autio thinking about the history of the silver spoon, and researching the tragedy. As a result she was able to write accurately about the event, using the silver spoon as the jumping off point. Characters from her imagination bring it all alive.
Second Watch is the story of a Finnish family who settled in Port Arthur, now part of Thunder Bay, in the early 1900s.
When Saara dreams of travelling to Finland to meet her grandparents, her father loses his job, and the family goes through some difficult times which it appears may prevent them from the trip.
Unfortunately for Saara, her younger brother and her mother, they do embark on the trip on the Empress of Ireland, and… their ship is rammed on a foggy night by a freighter…
It’s a cleverly-written tale that will keep the interest of youngsters who would likely find the story of a ship sinking nearly a century ago, pretty dry stuff otherwise.
Autio’s book will be launched at the Kelowna Museum, Saturday, June 4, from 1 to 3 p.m. where you can meet the author, hear her read from the book and enjoy refreshments.