The past looms large in this gripping sequel, as Records understands that people whose lives might seem like history to us were themselves shaped (and sometimes caught up in) what happened before, even long ago. Despite the urgent drama of the novel’s present—which includes shocking confrontations and Halina’s efforts to heal someone close to her—Records’s adult Poles are plagued by flashbacks and powerful memories of life before the States and of an earlier Chicago, too. This makes them feel uncommonly alive and relatable: scratch their present, and Poland or a decades-old job working at the Hawthorne Hotel bleed through.
That richness can slow the narrative momentum, but readers who share Records’s interest in immigrant communities, arresting character portraits, and the minds and language of the people of the past (“She looked silly, all dolled up like she was going to a wake for a saint. She had that floozy paint on her mouth,” one man thinks) will find this lengthy novel rewarding. It’s even, in its unhurried way, a page turner, with life-or-death stakes and plenty of swaggering gangsters. It stands alone, though Tied With Twine is recommended.
Takeaway: A stellar historical novel, set among Chicago’s Polish community and the gangland violence of the 1920s.
Great for fans of: Meyer Levin’s The Old Bunch, Aleksander Hemon’s The Lazarus Project.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A