Customer Reviews: A Young Wife: A Novel
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on September 6, 2011
The inspiration for this story was the author's own grandmother, who was "hired at fifteen to tend a dying relative in the home of my then thirty-five-year old grandfather, that he took her to South America to start a store there, that their union was a scandal in the tiny town where she lived, that he ultimately abandoned her with four young daughters ...."

In this novel Sander DeVries pays a visit to the home of Minke van Aisma in the Netherlands. It is 1912, and Sander's wife Elizabeth is very ill. Minke's parents know that he needs a nurse for his wife, and their belief is that Fenna, Minke's 16-year-old sister, will be the daughter that goes with him to Amsterdam. Minke, however, is caught out as she tries to listen in on the conversation, and Sander decides to take her instead, leaving Fenna resentful as always.

Minke quickly grows fond of Elizabeth, however, when Elizabeth suddenly dies, Minke is made to suddenly leave, returning to her parents' home with more questions than answers. When Sander asks her parents to marry her, Minke is not certain what to think, but in the end, she agrees and the couple travel to Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina with Sander's friend Dr. Cassian Tredegar.

In this far-flung new country, populated by gauchos that don't quite meet up with Minke's romantic ideals, Minke gives birth to a son named Zef, who is kidnapped while they are playing together. When Sander's business interests collapse, she must journey to America, leaving behind her hope of gaining Zef back.

This is a story of love, betrayal, lies, and the ultimate deceit. I felt for Minke, a young, gullible girl taken in by an older man. Her friendship with Cassian, her loneliness in her new country, and then the poverty and hard work in her next new country, all combine to make her, in the end, an admirable, strong woman. There are some extremely difficult surprises, some twists and turns, and a tale that kept me interested. The imagery is vivid, bringing to life the desolation and barrenness of the new Argentina, as well as the struggles in America, where everyone in the household has to work to pay the bills.

I would definitely recommend this for lovers of character-driven fiction, as the personalities here make the story even more than the action.


"We came here to Argentina. WE act as though the laws of the place we are from protect us, but they don't exist here. There are no real laws yet. no shared laws. Don't you understand? In order to have law, everyone must agree on the rules. Here there is no such thing."

Why hadn't she seen his character before? The signs had been there. Now they swung up and practically slapped her across the face. He'd married Minke because she was present in his house. He hadn't had to miss a beat from one wife to the next.

Fenna had won this one for sure. Sander hadn't the backbone, and Minke was tired of fighting for a man she didn't want.

Writing: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Characters: 3 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 3 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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on September 5, 2012
3 Stars is all I could give this though. It was only after I read the book that I discovered it was based on the author's grandmother's life. This is ironic because I had a hard time connecting to Minke. On the face of it I could feel compassion for her situation. But her character was too superficial to really empathize with her. It was hard to feel angry at her parents when she didn't. I have a hard time believing that someone who would take on the challenge of moving to a new continent would be such a door mat. Either the author didn't know her grandmother well or she was protecting her by not revealing the pain all of her trials must have caused. It wasn't until the sister arrived that she truly got angry. I don't think we can equate Minke to a typical 15 year old today. In some ways she was more sheltered and in others she was more mature. It feels like a rough draft. It needs another layer.
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on June 19, 2011
Author Pam Lewis tells a hypnotic tale of love, intrigue, foreign adventure and personal growth. In 1912 fifteen year old Minke is chosen (over her older sister Fenna) by Mr. Sander DeVries to accompany the much older and dashing man to Amsterdam, where Minke is to to care for De Vries' dying wife, Elizabeth. Minke's FIFTEEN! I kept reminding myself that if she were alive today she'd be a sophomore in high school. Elizabeth soon dies and within hours Sander weds the young, naive and sheltered Minke so they can board the ship that will carry them to the new and developing Argentine oil fields where they will open a store.

We quickly learn that people and situations are not always what they seem and that the trusting Minke has fallen wildly, crazy in love with Sander. Again, I kept having to remind myself that Minke is only fifteen when I am frustrated by her easy trust in people. She's soon pregnant and her dashing husband isn't quite so dashing anymore.

In A Young Wife, Lewis writes a story that is loosely based on the events of her maternal grandmother's life. I couldn't help but wonder what events and happenings were true and which were developed for this story in which the young Minke sees her first child abducted, she sees the aftermath of betrayal by people she cares for, and she sees the damage that happens when lies and money become more important than the soul and human relationships.

Lewis writes Minke's responses to the events of her life as a young girl would react! Lewis chronicles the development and growth of Minke's own survival skills and maternal instincts. One thing that does not betray her is the Comodoro Rivadavia area of the Argentine. Minke loves its people and its land. Somewhat like Scarlet O'Hara, Minke belongs to the Argentine land. She decides she must do what's necessary to find her son and eventually her way back to the land and the people where she can be her own person.

I highly recommend A Young Wife! It's a great plot driven story, and the fact that is it plot driven is my only whine. I do wish we knew a bit more about the characters, but I think that author Pam Lewis gave us all of the information we needed for her to tell her grandmother's story. It's my curiosity that made me want to know more.

I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

This galley was provided to me by the publisher and in no way affected my review.
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on June 13, 2011
In 1912 wealthy businessman Sander DeVries arrives in Enkhuzen, Netherlands and hires the younger of two sisters, fifteen years old Minke van Aisma over the angry objection of her sibling Fenna, to nurse his wife Elisabeth as she is dying. Sander selected her because he believed she had the quiet toughness Elisabeth will need. He escorts Minke to Amsterdam.

A few hours after Elisabeth dies, Sander stuns Minke by proposing; he wants her to become his spouse and live with him in oil city Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. Although frightened, she accepts. They travel across the Atlantic as Minke grows mentally stronger and becomes buddies with her husband's friend Cassian and Pieps a ship steerage boy. In Comodoro Rivadavia, Minke gives birth to a son Zef. However, her idyllic life is dangerous as her son is abducted while she carries her second offspring. Zef forces them to flee to New York, leaving behind her kidnapped child. He underestimates the will of a mother when it comes to her cub.

Based on the life of Pam Lewis' grandmother, A Young Wife is a superb early twentieth century thriller. Minke holds the story line together with her courage and caring. She and readers will be stunned once the truth is known as this vivid historical tale is a winning look at three continents in the first two decades of the previous century.

Harriet Klausner
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on June 13, 2011
A Young wife, was a splendid read. I found myself captivated and pulled into the authors account of her grandmothers troubling journey through growing up and the theft in so many ways of her innocents. The story unfolds in the beginning of a young girl cousin to Sanders wife asked to come live with them to take care of said wife as she lays dying. Upon the woman's death Minke, the young wife in said book is thrown into a whirlwind of life.

Marrying, living, loving and finally being betrayed by family and people she loved with all her heart she has her first born child stolen and kept hidden from her. I found myself rooting for the girl as she finally grew a backbone and took care of herself. Found her stolen son and pulled her life together. Going back to the place her one life in Comodoro.

It's a book that will make you laugh, cry , and cheer as this young woman braves her world and comes into her own. Standing up for the justice she deserves and sees the evil of man only to steal back her happiness and life before it's to late.
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on June 15, 2011
This was a pretty interesting book. It says it is loosely based on a true story, and I'm curious just how loose it is. A lot of bad stuff happened, and I'm interested in how much of it was real. The book tells the story of a 15 year old Dutch girl who marries an older man she hardly knows. She is then whisked away to Argentina. The city in Argentina is a new world on several levels. Minke has to adjust to her new married life and to an entirely new way of life in Argentina. Through a series of events, Minke ends up immigrating to the United States. There, even more new things await her.

The action proceeds at a fairly quick pace. In fact, there is so much going on, I didn't ever really get a feel for the characters. I like to know what's going on in their heads, and you don't really get any of that in this book. I never really understood why Minke married her husband in the first place. However, that was a pretty minor problem for me. I got engrossed in the book. I found that I had read half of it in one sitting without realizing it. I didn't want to stop without finding out what happened next.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think it will serve people well who just want a quick, interesting read. If you really like to get into the characters' heads, you may not enjoy this book that much. It certainly kept my interest, and I felt compelled to keep reading until the end.

Galley provided by publisher for review.
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Based on her grandmother's history, Lewis's tale begins in 1912 Amsterdam, moves to the coast of Argentina and finally the chaos of the immigrant experience, from Ellis Island to the vast city of New York. In a novel geared that may appeal a predominantly female demographic, the innocent Minke Van Aisma, fifteen, is engaged to care for the dying wife of Sander Devries in Amsterdam. Minke is hardly prepared for a proposal of marriage when Elisabeth DeVries unexpectedly expires or for an immediate voyage to the rugged coast of Argentina's Comodoro Rivadavia, where Sander's morphine production business will find a friendlier political climate. Leaving the familiar landscape of a carefully manicured Netherlands behind, Minke clings to her new husband, introduced to the uncertainties of marriage on the voyage to Argentina, falling in love with the primitive land where gauchos gallop in silver and red livery and oil pours forth freely from the earth. Due to her youth, Minke is both naïve and resilient, qualities she will need in a colorful frontier setting, her greatest challenge the duplicity of her mate and the greed of some of their acquaintances.

Adventure turns to tragedy in this unusual turn-of-the-century saga when Minke's baby son is kidnapped, circumstances once again forcing a change of location, Sander taking ship to America with Minke's sister, his mate to follow after the birth of their new baby. Lewis's protagonist may be slow to adapt to unfolding events, but she certainly exhibits the spirit of intrepid immigrants who refuse to be cowed by the unfamiliar. Given the social burdens of an uneducated young woman with a domineering, self-indulgent husband, it is reasonable to assume that Minke often acts from goodness and courage rather than logic. Lewis fills her tale with romance, passion and unbearable grief, unconditional love and the shock of immigrant life in New York City. The story often seems unreal- unsophisticated- but not when viewed from the perspective of a young woman traveling across the globe, facing overwhelming odds in each new environment. Some details may evoke skepticism, but this is the story of an innocent girl in a man's world, a mother who overcomes tragedy and heartbreaking betrayal, a woman who chooses honor over cowardice. Luan Gaines/2011.
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on October 2, 2012
I can't tell you how many hours of sleep I lost, staying up late to read "just one more chapter". This fictional narrative spans years and countries, but throughout it all you can't help but love the main character, Minke. She is flawed, but loving, and even while I'm cringing at some of her decisions, I find myself applauding her for her rationale. This is somewhat of an intricate coming-of-age novel, a bit of an adventure novel, a beautifully done historical piece, and a great, moving summer read. I highly recommend it for general fiction and historical fiction fans.
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on January 6, 2012
This was an interesting story that DID hold my attention, even while it seemed to be written for a younger audience (young adults comes to mind). It could have been quite a saga, but instead opted to over-simplify the plot line, making it predictable in some cases. Still, I felt drawn to Minke and admired her. In my opinion, the book left out some key scenes and then backtracked to cover them in a rather cursory manner....this certainly made the book shorter, but less substantial. Still, I was very interested to see how the story resolved.
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Pam Lewis has accomplished what many writers dream of doing - writing a fictionalized account of one of her ancestor's life. A Young Wife is a terrific read. It is loosely based on the actual life of Lewis's grandmother who caused a terrific scandal when she married a widower shortly after his first wife dies. What makes A Young Wife even better is the setting - Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. A Young Wife provides the best of two worlds - adventure in a faraway land for the armchair traveler and also an unforgettable love story.
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