A Glimpse into the Past
'City of Grit and Gold' by Maud Macrory Powell offers a glimpse into the lives of those who came from the old country, through the lens of historical fiction. Even though the main characters are Jewish, the story could easily have been about anyone coming from a faraway place and trying to make it in America.
Main character Addie can be easily related to by anyone who has ever felt somewhat on the outskirts of his or her family. She watches as her Uncle Chaim gets involved with protesters who are fighting for a better working wage, while her mother works to keep the household running and her father and another uncle run a hat shop as the family business. Her siblings, having come from the old country as young children, don't feel the same sense of obligation to their father's old world values as he does, however. Her older brother has differing political views and seems taken with the law, while her older sister, much in the tradition of 'Fiddler on the Roof,' considers leaving with a boy she has met to start a new life away from her family.
Addie's devotion to her various family members and desire to see everyone happy and healthy, while sickness weighs upon one of her cousins and countless others she comes upon in her travels through the streets of Chicago, is the crux of this novel. There were scenes that could have been explored further, but Powell's writing style brings the characters' personalities and thought processes to the forefront, providing ample opportunities for readers to connect with the past while feeling that the issues Addie and her family are facing could also be relevant currently.
'City of Grit and Gold' is a worthwhile read that sheds light on how purpose and dedication to a cause, whether for one's own family or others, can tear people apart yet at the same time bring them together. With Chicago as a backdrop, Addie and her family and friends show how big city life, while seemingly enticing, can bring with it huge changes that some may not be prepared for, while others are ready and willing to weather any trouble for the chance at a better life for their children and their children's children.