Released: April 2021
Annaleise Winston can never seem to fit in with the Society Girls, the strict rules that govern them, or their selfish indulgence during the Great Depression. Behind closed doors, her publicly perfect new fiancé, Frank Alexander, is violent and dismissive, but without his financial security, Annaleise and her mother will be on the streets with not a penny to their name.
When Annaleise finally has enough, she runs away and accidentally becomes stranded in a Hooverville, a lawless homeless encampment in Central Park, where she must keep her identity a secret if she wants to stay alive. But a kind shoe shiner named Thomas Kelley may get in the way of everything she thought she ever wanted. As their love for each other grows, the Great Depression worsens, and Frank will pay any price to bring back his bride.
A few months ago I read The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Her historical fiction books are hard to beat and her most recent was a heartbreakingly moving story about a woman struggling to survive in the Dust Bowl. So when I was given an opportunity to read Hooverville shortly after finishing The Four Winds, I jumped at the chance, keen to read more about the lives of women during the Depression.
Now, I’ll fully admit that I judge books by their covers. When I saw the (absolutely beautiful!) cover for this book I thought it was going to lean toward the historical chick lit I see at airports. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Much like The Four Winds, this was a complex story with many different themes, mostly focusing on the desperation and hopelessness of poverty. There was some romance to it, but what this book is really about is the strength of the human spirit.
To escape a violent situation, Annaleise takes refuge in a grim shantytown in Central Park. It was so far removed from her previous life, I doubt she could have truly pictured what a Hooverville looked like before she came to be living in one of the most infamous homeless camps of the Great Depression. The assaults on her senses- the sights, sounds, and smells of despair and squalor- forced her to face her prejudices and re-evaluate everything she thought she knew about society. She also eventually learned that sometimes true happiness and love can be found in the darkest of places.
What really struck me in Hooverville were the endearing and enduring characters, characters that will stay with me for a long time. Kayla Joy is a talented writer who not only surprised me, but blew me away with her book. I am so grateful to have been able to be given the chance to read it.
For anyone wanting to learn more about what it was like living in a Hooverville, this book portrays it with stark honesty. It is a surprisingly timely book as well. As I was reading, I was reminded that many of the attitudes and situations from almost a century ago still prevail today. We like to think we have progressed in leaps and bounds since the 1930’s, but in several ways we haven’t.
The humanity portrayed in this book is what sets it apart. It is easy to think those in the bleak situations we hear on the news are just nameless masses, but they are actual human beings not unlike ourselves. So we should all try to emulate Annaleise and check our privilege. Like her, we need to have empathy, not apathy, for people who are suffering.
About the Author:
Kayla Joy is an author and artist living in the Pacific Northwest with her family and her many animals. At 20, she has already self published two books: Morbid Tales from Behind the Mirror (available on Amazon now) and Hooverville. You can follow her journey at kaylajoybooks.com.
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