2019 Donora, Pennsylvania Ninety-one-year-old Patryk Rusek hides in his attic, hoping the searchers think he’s escaped. When Lucy finally bursts in, she discovers her beloved grandfather clutching a fat, hand-illustrated, antique book. In it is the story of Donora, the town that shaped America, its people and Patryk himself. Before long, Lucy and her son Owen lose track of their goal to get Grandpa Patryk somewhere “safe” as they’re drawn into the book, back in time, into stories that read like real-life fairytales born of purpose, hard-work, and chance.
1910 Donora, Pennsylvania
In the early dawn of Donora, Pennsylvania, the mills make and shape the steel that builds America. Mary Lancos lives in a home on the hill overlooking town and its mighty Monongahela River. That tiny house bursts with her siblings and boarders. Wind whipping through the walls and windows makes Mary determined to marry well and create a better life.
Shy Pole, Lukasz Musial, arrives in Donora seeking the clear blue skies, green lawns, and better life he’d seen pictured on a postcard. Settled in Donora’s Polish community, Lukasz secures a coveted job in the wire mill. Life is set on course to achieve the American Dream. All he needs is a wife who believes in him, in his mighty, quiet, strength.
After a series of casual, friendly meetings, fate brings Mary and Lukasz to the river under a snowy, pink moonlit sky and everything changes. Their attraction is sudden and consuming, turning the pair onto an unexpected path. With mounting disapproval from Mary’s parents she and Lukasz must decide if love is enough to risk losing everything else that matters.
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“Kathleen Shoop has bejeweled this book with her magnificent imagination and impeccable writing. The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a romance that goes beyond looks and settles deep into the souls of readers. Every so often, a love story comes that your heart can’t let go. One of those love stories, for me, has been Mr. Darcy and Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice. Now Mary and Lukasz in The Strongman and the Mermaid will stay with me for a long time to come.”
— Ankita Shukla for Readers’ Favorite
“The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is a gorgeous story, a gripping romance with a strong setting. The plot structure is unusual and it has beautiful twists. I love stories with great characters and a well-developed conflict and I always want to see characters evolve through the conflict. It is something that this author does impeccably well. The narrative is emotionally rich…The writing is cinematic, punctuated by exciting dialogue. The Strongman and the Mermaid will keep you awake through the night.”
— Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite
“I was hooked from the very start…The Strong Man and the Mermaid is skillfully plotted and written in beautiful prose. The reader is pulled into a fairytale-like world with strong and memorable characters. The love adventure between Mary and Lukasz is one of the key elements that add to the entertaining potential of this narrative. Kathleen Shoop keeps it real and human, succeeding in creating an emotional connection between the reader and the characters.”
— Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite
The Donora Story Collection Book 1 – After the Fog
Historic, environmental drama wrapped in a love story…
It’s 1948 in the steel town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous “killing smog.” Public health nurse, Rose Pavlesic, has risen above her orphaned upbringing and created a life that reflects everything she missed as a child. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her doting husband, loving children, and large extended family.
When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as gray as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harboring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family—and the whole town—splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin?
***2013 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist***
***Independent Publisher Awards: 2012 Silver, Best Regional Fiction–Mid-Atlantic***
***National Indie Excellence Awards: 2012 WINNER– Literary Fiction***
“Shoop masterfully details familial struggles, secrets, and consequences that keep the reader riveted til the end.” – Melissa Foster
“A great and satisfying read. Rose’s triumph over adversity touched me deeply. Ms. Shoop truly knows how to tug the heartstrings. S. K. McClafferty, author of The Ghost and Devlin Muir.” – S. K. McClafferty, author of The Ghost and Devlin Muir
“This is a well-written story set authentically in a historic place and time, around an intricate plot which includes most of the elements that provide for a good “soap opera,” or a book that would be accepted by Oprah Winfrey.” – Historical Novel Society
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About Kathleen Shoop
Bestselling author, Kathleen Shoop, holds a PhD in reading education and has more than 20 years of experience in the classroom. She writes historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance. Shoop’s novels have garnered various awards in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), Eric Hoffer Book Awards, Indie Excellence Awards, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Readers’ Favorite and the San Francisco Book Festival. Kathleen has been featured in USA Today and the Writer’s Guide to 2013. Her work has appeared in The Tribune-Review, four Chicken Soup for the Soul books and Pittsburgh Parent magazine. Kathleen coordinates Mindful Writing Retreats and is a regular presenter at conferences for writers.
I adore writing historical fiction (The Letter series, After the Fog and Donora Stories) but am having a blast writing romance like Home Again, Return to Love and Tending Her Heart (Endless Love series). Thank you so much for the time you take to read.
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Let’s start by saying I never read book one in this series and will be going back to do so. I was so taken by the characters and the story lines in book two I want to read the beginning. I am also waiting with baited breath for the next installment. That all being said, you can read this book as a standalone and not read any of the others in the series.
The steel mills of Pennsylvania have long held a place in the history of the US and in my heart. I remember cities like Pittsburgh when the mills were active and how dirty they were. Nowadays, Pittsburgh – just in case you want to visit – has turned itself around and is a beautiful destination.
While I have no knowledge of a town called Donora in Pennsylvania, I lived on the shores of the Monongahela River for three years. When I read about it, I feel like I know what the author is writing about even though I may not have been at that particular location.
Add to my love of the Mon and of historical fiction the love story in this book and I couldn’t put The Strongman and the Mermaid down. I read through it in no time at all, placing different customs and happenings to what I know of history of the area. I love that Mary had enough strength, maybe she should be the strongman, to go against what her parents wanted her to do in a time when women had little say in their lives.
I also love the Catholic traditions that were present in the community and the book.
You should pick up a copy of Kathleen Shoop’s The Strongman and the Mermaid and give it a read. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.
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