Saturday, December 5, 2020

We Came Here to Shine

Title:  We came Here to Shine
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Griffin. 2020. 384 pages.
ISBN:  125016978X / 978-1250169785

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Amid dark clouds and steady rain, hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic visitors turned out to watch as President Roosevelt officially opened the 1939 World's Fair yesterday with a rousing speech promoting 'peace and good-will among all nations.'"

Favorite Quote:  "Chance encounters - seeming coincidences of place and time - were fickle. Sometimes such encounters embodied a chemistry and mind of their own, resulting in relationships the were momentous. And sometimes those encounters had as much energy as a speck of inconsequential dust, meant to be overlooked and immediately forgotten."

"... two modern girls, toiling away at the fair for the summer, planting the seeds of our ambition that will bloom into the career of our dreams." Two different approaches to this same goal:
  • "It seems like your biggest problem ... is that you sometimes criticize your inner voice instead of listening to it and letting it guide you to what you really want out of life."
  • "It seems like your biggest problem is that you don't want to play by the rules as they exist in your industry or possibly even in life in general. you want to break them all and get to the top before you turn twenty-five."
Vivi and Max are working at the World's Fair much against either of their wills. Vivi is an actress in Hollywood contracted with a studio, and the studio sends her back to New York on loan to be the star of the Aquacade show at the fair. Max is a New York University journalism student whose dream is to work at The New York Times but whose assigned summer internship lands her at Today at the Fair, a daily publication with the daily schedules and articles at the fair.

The background of the World's Fair is fascinating, particularly given the timing. The 1930s was the time of the Depression in the Unites States and the rise of Hitler in Europe. Part of the objective of creating the fair was to give New York an economic and social boost. The fair opened on the 150th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration. This book, however, is not the story of the Depression or the politics or the war.

This is the story of two women and a story behind the scenes at the fair. Vivi is sent to New York to replace an injured actress as Aquabelle Number One in Billy Rose's Aquacade, a music and dance show of over 500 swimmers performed several times a day. Max is assigned to work at the daily fair paper and, because of a manager who does not believe in female journalists, relegated to the task of assembling the daily schedule rather than write actual articles.

A chance meeting introduces the two women to each other and leads to a friendship. The two agree to help each other. "How about I help you become more of a bull in a china shop and you help me stop breaking all the dishes?" Surrounding the two main characters are other strong women - Ruby, Marianne, and Maria - who play their own role in the sisterhood. Surrounding them are the men of the story, some of whom are supportive and some depict the beliefs of the male dominated society at the time. As expected, there are romances, but fortunately the focus remains on the women not the relationships.

The story goes beyond the career choices of these women to include family and one particularly melodramatic plot line. The book makes several references to the historical basis for the author's earlier book The Subway Girls. The time period of that book is considerably longer than this one, but both are the stories of women and the search for independence, equality, and a voice. This story does not introduce anything really unexpected but at the same time does not wrap up the ending into a neat "lived happily ever" package either. I like the ending for it feels real and a stepping point into the next step of life for these women. Overall, a light, quick, and entertaining read.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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