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Home » Book Reviews » The Hired Girl – Laura Amy Schlitz, Newberry medal winner

The Hired Girl – Laura Amy Schlitz, Newberry medal winner


Ruled by a brutal father and brothers and missing her dead mother, 14-year-old Joan Skraggs runs away from her family’s Pennsylvania farm, makes her way to Baltimore, and is rescued from a park bench by a well-dressed young man. She presents herself as Janet Lovelace, age 18, and becomes “the hired girl,” a servant to the Rosenbachs — a prosperous Jewish family who own a department store. Janet keeps a diary, and the reader quickly gleans that her notions of life come from three books: “Jane Eyre,” “Dombey and Son” and “Ivanhoe.” “I plan to go on as bravely as a heroine in a novel,” she writes. “In my new life I’m not going to be vulgar. Even though I’m going to be a servant I’m going to cultivate my finer feelings. I will better myself and write with truth and refinement.”

Janet, the book implies, may one day be an author. But first, she has to scrub floors, beat carpets, iron sheets and wash dishes while keeping kashrut. She’s a tough and determined protagonist, but also impulsive, a bit of a meddler and an irrepressible romantic hungry for an education.  A very enjoyable read giving an insight into jewish customs and ways

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