Anne Hamre’s novel, Passages, is an entrancing historical fiction work adapted from actual events that happened in the lives of her grandparents from the late 1890’s into the mid-1920’s. The primary narrator of the story is her grandmother Anne, a strong-willed woman in search of independence, who falls in love with a hired farmhand, who later becomes her husband Frank. The story of their love crossing continents reads like an epic romance, though as with such stories not everything can always be full of joy and happiness. Hamre’s adaptation of her family’s history is filled with such depth that you will find yourself entranced by the love weaving throughout the novel.
Passages examines not only the immigrant experience, but also the lives of farmers. She begins in her family’s home village in Wales and we are taken on a variety of journeys throughout. While initially we read Anne’s reactions to her beloved’s letters from America, we are later given a look at Australia from his point of view. This switch in voice was an interesting dynamic within the text and I found it added to my understanding of Frank, outside of how he was presented through Anne’s viewpoint. Even early on the relationship is marked with struggles as the pair try and balance the level of freedom they both desire with their wish to be married. Once they make their transition into Canada the story becomes one of additional trials and perseverance against unanticipated struggles. This makes the moments of victory that Hamre presents all the sweeter as we see the couple finding their way.
I found myself eagerly reading this book with no desire to put it down. Anne and Frank’s journey together is a captivating read and as this is a fictionalized version of true events it reminded me a bit of a book series I loved from my youth, Dear America. Each book in the series was told from a different girls’ point of view from a variety of time periods. As Anne matures throughout Passages her reactions to some situations change and while she remains the same person, the slight changes Hamre makes over the course of the book to show she has grown created what felt like an adult version of the books I loved as a child. While the Anne in the story is fictionalized her dedication to her career and later to making her farm successful had me rooting for her throughout the story and wanting to see her achieve all of the happiness she desired. I applaud Hamre for her creative work and for creating such a beautiful story inspired by her own family’s experiences.
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