I first heard about Thirsty from Christina Katz. Author Kristin Bair O’Keeffe and I connected, and she’ll be stopping by this he’ah blog on November 18 in her book’s blog tour with WOW. You’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book.
I admit I was apprehensive about reading the novel when its description mentions abuse, steel town, a depressing place, heartbreak. I know there’s a lot of sadness in our world, but we hear enough so why read a story for more? Because Thirsty tells a lyrical story about the unbendable spirit of Klara, an immigrant from Croatia.
The story begins in 1883 in Croatia where Klara contends with an abusive father. Her eventual and equally abusive husband, Drago, enters the picture as a likable guy who romances her the old-fashioned way. However, that doesn’t last long. Soon after arriving in the dark town of Thirsty, a town outside of Pittsburgh, Drago changes for the worse.
Klara feels let down as she thought America was supposed to be colorful, full of meadows and an uplifting kind of place. Her depressing beginnings of her life in America compel you to keep reading when you meet the locals consisting of her best friend and her husband, the town drunk and a black man with his own store.
She has three children during the Thirsty‘s 40-year journey of her life. O’Keeffe’s writing arouses the reader’s curiosity. The author also doesn’t take the easy way out, so the story never turns into a predictable one. O’Keeffe doesn’t dwell on Klara’s abuse. Instead she touches it — just enough to give you an idea of what she lives with — without wallowing in it.
It’s Klara’s relationships with the town’s people that add helping of color in her dark world. Her neighbor, Katherine doesn’t put up with Klara’s abusive husband. Drago’s dislike of blacks scares Klara into staying away from BenJo, the shopkeeper whom Klara befriends in spite of her husband’s threats. Klara has strange encounters with Old Man Rupert, the drunk.
Katherine tells captivating stories to Klara, one of which explains how “amen” came to be. This 200-paged novel packs a lot of emotions, events, discoveries, sadness, hardship and growth to keep you intrigued while learning about the times, the working-class, the mills and the traditions.
O’Keeffe tells the enthralling story with amazing eloquence. She takes a reader on a journey of good and bad surprises worth discovering that ends on a fulfilling note without an ounce of predictability.