The Strongman and the Mermaid

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
575 Pages
Reviewed on 05/20/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite

Woven around the parents of Stan Musial, the renowned baseball star, The Strongman and the Mermaid is historical fiction. Kathleen Shoop has bejeweled this book with her magnificent imagination and impeccable writing. Lukasz Musial and Miss Mary, unbeknownst to each other, share a mutual bond of faith and unwavering drive to surpass their current lifestyle. Mary is an American, and Lukasz dreams of making a life for himself in America. Lukasz lives a troubled and poor life in a Polish village. Since the day he heard about the kind of lifestyle America can provide, he decided to win the ticket that a sponsor was offering to one person in that village. On the other hand, Mary works day and night under the strict supervision and nonstop badgering of her mom. She works in a mine, in Mrs. Dunn's household as a maid, and each night rows the boat to get her father back from his work. Although her work and poverty should have broken her spirit, she has a firm belief that she will not continue to live in these poor conditions forever. In fact, she has fabricated a plan which involves a rich boy, Samuel, proposing to marry her one day. Even though she has discovered that Samuel is a bad dancer and even worse kisser, she is not going to let these shortcomings get in the way of her dreams.

As the story is set in 1910, many customs were shocking to me. Marrying kids and employing them at the age of 13 was the most shocking to me. The living conditions of Mary, her siblings, and her parents were so horrendous that I, as a reader, prayed for Mary to get the life that she so desired. Lukasz was disappointed to see the difference between the America that he had heard about and the America that he was looking at now. Nevertheless, his drive and passion to make a home for himself were bigger than any other desires. A nobleman with no land or money, his character is so refined that he does not sulk about anything; instead, he pushes himself and continues dreaming. He wants romance, a wife, and a child, and although he slips a couple of times by temptation, his priority is always to be a worthy man. His chivalry and drive won my heart.

The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is not an ordinary romance. It is a romance that goes beyond looks and settles deep into the souls of readers. Every so often, a love story comes that your heart can't let go. One of those love stories, for me, has been Mr. Darcy and Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice. Now Mary and Lukasz in The Strongman and the Mermaid will stay with me for a long time to come. I would recommend this book to readers who appreciate a long and beautiful tale of romance and struggle.

Romuald Dzemo

The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a gorgeous story, a gripping romance with a strong setting. Ninety-one-year-old Patryk Rusek is a hunted man. He knows they are coming for him, so he does the one thing logical to him: hide in the attic in the hope that his searchers will think he has escaped. But then his granddaughter, Lucy, comes into the attic and finds Patryk with a hand-illustrated old book. The book contains the story of Donora and how it shaped America. Lucy and her son, Owen, are irresistibly pulled into a world back in 1910, following an extraordinary story of love, of daring, and the destiny of two souls irreversibly drawn towards each other.

The plot structure is unusual and it has beautiful twists. I love stories with great characters and a well-developed conflict and I always want to see characters evolve through the conflict. It is something that this author does impeccably well. The conflict is indirectly introduced right away. The old man in hiding and the old book are elements that immediately aroused my curiosity, and the author transitions with skill, pulling the reader into the world of Donora and following the romance between Mary and Lukasz. Mary and Lukasz are characters that I enjoyed. The attraction between them grows naturally, but the conflict builds around family values and acceptance. What happens when the family of the one we love refuses to give their blessing to us? The narrative is emotionally rich, a tale that takes place in a beautiful setting. The writing is cinematic, punctuated by exciting dialogues. The Strongman and the Mermaid will keep you awake through the night. Kathleen Shoop has what it takes to keep readers engaged.

K.C. Finn

The Strongman And The Mermaid is a work of epic historical fiction penned by author Kathleen Shoop, and forms the second book in The Donora Story Collection. In the present-day town of Donora, Pennsylvania, Lucy is shocked to find her grandfather in hiding, clutching an ancient book about the town itself. When she begins to read, she discovers the Donora of 1910, and the tale of Polish immigrant Lukasz Musial who arrives in town with the hope of taking his own slice of the American dream. He meets a young woman, Mary, with dreams of her own, and what follows is a heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of the hardships of life and the development of the town that shaped America.

Author Kathleen Shoop writes with great emotional clarity, allowing her characters to pour out their fears, fantasies, hopes and wishes without invading the tale too much as a writer. In other places, the clearly historically researched splendor of Donora takes over, inviting us to relive the first half of the twentieth century through the eyes of the people who shaped this town into what it later became. Mary and Lukasz’s story was both typical and classic, full of trials and tribulations, interesting clashes of culture and tumultuous romance that would warm even the most cynical of hearts. All the while, the revelations of the modern day tale loom, and the conclusion to those more than satisfies readers for this volume. Overall, The Strongman And The Mermaid is an emotive journey through visual history.

Ruffina Oserio

The Strong Man and the Mermaid is the second book in the Donora Collection by Kathleen Shoop, a fairytale with strong hints of history. Patryk Rusek is a ninety-one-year-old man who is hiding in the attic with the hope that his searchers will think he has escaped. But then Lucy, his granddaughter, comes in and finds Patryk clutching a fat, hand-illustrated book that tells the story of Donora and how it shaped America. Now, Lucy and her son are absorbed in the book and transported to Donora in 1910. Follow them in this adventure that uncovers exciting stories of hard work, of romance, and a tale of the ultimate sacrifice for love.

I was hooked from the very start of the story. The author introduces the protagonist immediately and draws the reader’s attention to the internal conflict experienced by the protagonist: “It happened like this for Patryk Rusek. They came for him, over and over, bossing him, coercing, bribing, tricking him, pretending it was for his own good. But this time, Patryk prepared for the invasion.” My curiosity was immediately aroused and I wanted to know who the people were that came for Patryk and what they really wanted from him.

The Strong Man and the Mermaid is skillfully plotted and written in beautiful prose. The reader is pulled into a fairytale-like world with strong and memorable characters. The love adventure between Mary and Lukasz is one of the key elements that add to the entertaining potential of this narrative. Kathleen Shoop keeps it real and human, succeeding in creating an emotional connection between the reader and the characters.

Samantha Gregory

The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a story in two parts. It begins with the story of a man called Patryk, a ninety-one-year-old man who has locked himself away in his attic to avoid his granddaughter and her son from taking him away from his home. He holds a book which he refuses to hand over. The story then goes to 1910 and tells the story of Donora, a town in Pennsylvania, and a couple called Mary and Lukasz who fall in love in impossible surroundings. With everyone against them, they have to find a way to be together.

Kathleen Shoop has created an interesting and engaging story in The Strongman and the Mermaid. The characters are well developed and I enjoyed reading about them. I liked the characters and I thought that the dialogue was good and believable. It kept me turning the pages. I especially liked Patryk's character. He is old, struggling a bit and he has come to rely on this book. He loves the stories and they give him comfort. The Strongman and the Mermaid is kind of a historical romance and I think it would do very well with people who enjoy that particular genre and romance readers who are perhaps looking for something a little different. Most romance stories are contemporary nowadays, so it was a nice change of pace to read something from a different era and to see how the people were in those days. I think it will do well on the market. I would recommend this book to fans of historical and romance fiction.