Book Review: The Year We Were Famous

The Year We Were Famous
Carole Estby Dagg
Grade 6 and up
288 pages

Come walk across America with Clara and Helga!

Set in 1896, The Year We Were Famous is based on the true story of the author’s great aunt and great-great grandmother. It’s a fast-paced historical adventure that will please all.

In order to save her family’s farm, seventeen-year old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, set out to walk across the United States in hopes of raising enough money to save the farm from foreclosure. They start in Spokane, Washington and work their way across America until they arrive in New York City almost nine months later. Their journey is filled with heartache, laughter, dangers and new experiences as mother and daughter learn to better understand each other along the way.

I have to say; I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book, but the more I read the harder it was for me to put the book down! I really, really enjoyed it. Clara and Helga are two very different people. Clara is very practical, while Helga is much more carefree. Their personalities clash throughout the novel, but in the end their determination to save the family farm helps them overcome their differences. And with each new challenge they face they learn to rely on and respect each other for the very traits that make them so different. I really liked these characters for both their faults and their strengths. At times I wanted to shake the mother (much like Clara) and at other times I wanted to tell Clara to stand up to her! That’s what made me love them so much. They weren’t perfect, but their interactions were real and heartfelt and I could relate to them.

The pacing works wonderfully. We don’t see every step of their journey, but we experience enough to really understand the difficulties, worries and joys Clara and Helga experience. Snakes, highwaymen, flash floods, lava fields, blizzards…it’s one challenge after another! However, it’s not all about the hardship. Along the way, we get some wonderful moments as well! My favorite scene had to be the “curling iron” demonstration! You’ll just have to go read the book to find out more! Trust me it’s worth the read!

The historical detail in the book amazed me. From life on a farm, to the bicycle, to the women’s suffrage movement, to president-elect McKinley… Every single page put me back in 1896, without my ever feeling like I was being given a history lesson. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it to all of you! This is one you don’t want to miss.


4 Responses to Book Review: The Year We Were Famous

  1. I loved this book too! Carole let me read one of the ARCS and I could. not. stop.

    And even tho it’s placed at middle grade, I had no qualms recommending this to adults!

  2. Tricia Tighe says:

    Sounds fun!

  3. QNPoohBear says:

    My mom and grandmother read an adult biography about these two ladies Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt. They told me about it and the novel version sounds like a better read. I’ll have to look for it at the library. Thanks!

  4. […] important times for women’s history in America. You can read blogger reviews of this title here and here, and you can connect with the author at her website here (hers is one worth reading for […]

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