Thursday, September 19, 2013

BLOG TOUR: Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Title: Swimming in the Moon
Author: Pamela Schoenewaldt
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: Sept. 3/2013
Adquired: Print ARC provided by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

From the author of When We Were Strangers comes a uniquely American story-a tale of deep, shifting ties between a determined daughter and her gifted, wounded mother in the early 1900s, framed by bitter union strikes, the thrill of vaudeville and a young woman's struggle to find her place.

Lucia D'Angelo's voice is nothing like her mother's. She's no nightingale with the gorgeous tones, tender and passionate, peaking and plummeting as dramatically as her moods. Yet in the rough world she's chosen, Lucia's words may truly change lives.

In 1904, fourteen-year-old Lucia and her young mother Teresa are servants in a count's lush villa on the Bay of Naples. Between scrubbing floors and polishing silver, Teresa soothes the unhappy countess with song until one morning's calamity hurls mother and daughter to America, exchanging their gilded cage for icy winds off Lake Erie and Cleveland's taut immigrant neighborhoods. Lucia blossoms and Teresa wins fleeting fame on the tawdry stage of vaudeville until old demons threaten their new life. In factories and workhouses, Lucia finds her own stage, giving voice to those who have given her a home. As roles reverse, mother and daughter reshape their fierce and primal bond.


What a beautiful title: Swimming in the Moon. A beautiful title, a beautiful cover, and lyrical prose that described images of rolling hills, cobblestone streets, and sun-kissed horizons-at least for the first 20 or so pages. It was the first time I've ever visited Naples, Italy, and even though I got whisked away from it after only 2 chapters, it couldn't have been a better place to begin the book in.

Despite the vivid, and romantic scenery, Swimming in the Moon was a book steeped in hardships. It began with hardship, took a sharp turn because of violence, and coasted uneasily through moments of pain, mental decline, and bittersweet happiness. We meet Lucia, 14 years into her life, and 27 years into her mother's, Teresa. At the start, the pair work for, and board with, a highly regarded count and his wife as housekeepers/maids. Lucia spends her days daydreaming about life beyond her duties, all whilst trying to soothe her temperamental mother. Teresa was the victim of an unfortunate, fatherless, childhood, and then later on, a rape victim that produced her daughter. Right away, Lucia's struggle is apparent, she wants to be everything for her mother, but at the same time, youth and imagination has her wondering if her future could turn out brighter, and more sane, than her mother's did.

The remainder of the book takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, which was quite the jump from Italy. It was a culture shock to be honest, even though we were only in Italy for so little time. Lucia and Teresa find new board at the home of a friend's relative, with spirits high, and excitement of capturing and living "the American dream." It was here that Swimming in the Moon truly started. The brutal reality of struggling to make ends meet, to care for those who you dedicated your life to caring for. Teresa was such a fascinating person, in the way her internal suffering sometimes consumed her genuine NEED to be a good mother to Lucia. I can imagine what a difficult feat it is to perfect such a conflicted character, but Pamela Schoenewaldt did so with ease, and I applaud her talent. Even more fascinating was Lucia's story, her unfailing strength in the face of disappointment, and stress. This book was, at it's core, a coming-of-age story for both women, accelerated due to the fierce instinct to survive, to overcome, and succumb.

I called my mother right after I read this book, and stayed on the phone with her longer than I usually do. The determination, and unconditional love in Swimming in the Moon was rich, and abundant-it made the hard times easier, and sometimes made them even harder. But all the same, a book that will, hopefully, help you appreciate the time we all live in now, and all of the privileges and opportunities we're ALL welcome to take advantage of.

Recommended for Fans of: Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction, Contemporary, Amy McKay, Christina Baker Kline.


Pamela Schoenewaldt lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy and the United States. Her play, “Espresso con mia madre” (Espresso with my mother) was performed at Teatro Cilea in Naples. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee and now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a physicist, and their dog Jesse, a philosopher.

Contact Links
Website | Facebook | Goodreads 


Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to William Morrow Paperbacks for sending me a print ARC to review!

CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour


  1. Nice fall update of your blog design. Believe it or not, I have a tablecloth with these exact stripes and colors. :)

    I saw this book at the Speed Dating Session at the BEA this past spring. It does sound good. Unfortunately I didn't get to take it home.

    THANKS for your review...very nice.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  2. I love it when a book gets readers to connect with the important people in their lives in a more meaningful way.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  3. "I called my mother right after I read this book, and stayed on the phone with her longer than I usually do." I love books that prod you to reach out to loved ones -- it's good to stay connected with people!

  4. Enjoyed your review - I loved reading your insights about Lucia's mother especially.


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