Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: A Snug Life Somewhere

A Snug Life Somewhere
by Jan Shapin

Why did you choose this book? I like historical fiction
When did you read this book? February 2014
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy memoir-style fiction
Source: TLC Books Tours
Here is a synopsis of A Snug Life Somewhere from TLC Book Tours

A Snug Life Somewhere is about Penny Joe Copper, daughter of a roustabout shingle weaver, who is caught up in a 1916 union tragedy known as the Everett Massacre. Her brother Horace is killed, as is the cousin of a radical organizer, Gabe. When her love affair with Marcel, a music student seven years her junior, is thwarted, she is pulled into Gabe’s campaign to avenge the “Everett Martyrs.” She follows Gabe to Mexico (where they live in a household of Bolsheviks bent on smuggling jewels), then to Chicago (where she rediscovers Marcel, steals a Faberge egg and escapes from Gabe).

Then a second event intervenes—the Seattle General Strike of 1919. Penny Joe returns to Seattle to confront Gabe and meets up with a mysterious stranger who turns out to be J. Edgar Hoover. Should she give the Faberge egg to Hoover as evidence against Gabe or just disappear and start a new life? Is she ever going to reunite with her lost love, Marcel?

My Review 

I picked up this book because I really like the cover. I was interested in the story because I have an ancestor who is said to have been killed during a labor organizing event in Chicago about the same era as this. So learning more about the motivations and events of this time leading up to WWI appealed to me.

I did feel like a learned a lot about this period, which is one of the things I look for when I read historical fiction. I’d never heard of the Everett Massacre specifically, or at least not that I remember, but I had heard of the violence accompanying the early attempts forming at labor unions. So it was interesting to get this ‘behind the scenes’ look. And while a lot of events were not covered in detail, the mentions of events I’d read about added to the story. One example was a brief mention of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Interestingly, though I have not read a book focused specifically on that event, this is the third book I’ve read in the past six months that referred to the tragedy. So I did feel like I was able to put this story in some kind of historical context. I also have been reading several novels of Russian history in the past few years, so Gabe’s involvement with the Bolsheviks also was interesting.

Interestingly, one of the things I liked about the writing was how authentic it felt. The narrator is Penny Joe, who at this time is old and has lived a full life. And like many old ladies, she tends to digress, and then pull herself back into the story. It felt a lot like listening to my grandma tell stories.

I say that is interesting because unfortunately, although I liked the historical aspect, the story itself fell a little flat for me. There were times when I was very interested, but there were also times when I felt the story moved incredibly slowly. I think the main reason for this is that in many ways, the story read like a memoir, and of course, regular readers on my blog know that in general, I don’t enjoy memoirs. So let me just point out that the fact that I love or do not love a book does not mean you will or won’t love it. Most of the reviews of this one are very positive, so you should read through the tour to help you decide if this book is for you!  In many ways this book reminded me of my experience with The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. If you loved that one, you will probably also love this one!

Jan Shapin has been writing plays and screenplays for nearly thirty years, in the last decade concentrating on fiction. Shapin has studied playwriting at Catholic University in Washington, DC, screenwriting at the Film and Television Workshop and University of Southern California, and fiction writing at a variety of locations including Barnard College’s Writers on Writing seminar, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Her plays have been produced in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. She has received grants from the RI Council for the Humanities and has served as a juror for the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts screenplay fellowship awards. A companion novel, A Desire Path, was published in 2012.

She lives in North Kingstown, RI with her photographer husband.

Visit the author’s website to learn more about Jan Shapin. While there, you can read an excerpt of A Snug Life Somewhere and learn some background history of the events covered in the book.

My Rating:  ★★1/2   2-1/2 Stars (this will definitely be higher for fans of memoirs!)

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I received a copy of the book in return for an honest review, which you can read above.

Jan’s Tour Stops

Monday, February 10th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, February 11th: The Road to Here
Wednesday, February 12th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, February 13th: Melody & Words
Monday, February 17th: Priscilla and Her Books
Tuesday, February 18th: Lisa’s Yarns
Thursday, February 20th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, February 24th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, February 25th: The Written World
Wednesday, February 26th: The Most Happy Reader
Thursday, February 27th: Time 2 Read
Monday, March 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, March 4th: Book Loving Hippo
Wednesday, March 5th: Unabridged Chick


  1. Kim- I am so pleased you mentioned the cover of A Snug Life Somewhere -- I think the photo captures the essence of young Penny Joe: pride, fear and an openness to life. As to memoir-like fiction, I recently started to reread one of my all time favorites, Gilead, and found I wasn't in the mood for the slow voice of the old man narrator. It is still on my bed table,and still a great, great book, but one I have to approach when I am ready to listen to him. Some books require the right state of mind. Thank you for a very thoughtful review and there is a good novel out there about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, I just can't remember the name of it.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.