Historical Fiction

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly


Joanna Collier is the mother of two young children and married to Frank, an engineer working for his family’s business…Bethlehem Steel. After his father’s death, Frank’s responsibilities increased dramatically and felt the pressure to move his family to the headquarters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. And, he needed to be closer to his aging grandmother and mother, both living alone in their ancestral home. Joanna doesn’t mind the move but reluctantly agrees to live in the mansion. The divide between her and Frank only widens as she feels even more isolated, struggles to connect with his grandmother and mother and fears she’s losing her identity.

This story takes quite some time to develop and I highly recommend you stick with it as the payoff is worth it. The story transitions between 1962 (Joanna’s perspective) and 1918/24 (in the time of Frank’s maternal and paternal grandparents). Hollins Parrish ran the steel company and Charles Collier worked there as chief engineer. The families were close, their children even closer and their story is told through the eyes of Frank’s mother (Susannah Parrish Collier). Susannah is a formidable presence in both eras but in entirely divergent ways. I was always intrigued to learn how that happened and it was slowly revealed but perfectly timed. The details are important and I’m glad I was patient as the attention given to develop each character made such a difference in the power of the storytelling. All the while, Joanna’s story continues and I knew at some point there would be a connection although it was wildly, wonderfully elusive.

I guessed what most likely happened 38 years earlier but by the time it was revealed, I was hopelessly connected with these people, experiencing every emotion fresh and raw. And, there were a few twists that I didn’t anticipate that provided even more shape, form and texture to the story. This is a beautiful, touching story that I didn’t see coming. I’m really glad I stayed with it because once you reach the halfway point, you’ll not want to put it down.

Book Info

  • Release Date: July 9, 2019
  • Page Numbers: 294
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press


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(Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)

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