Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Thirsty: My Review

About the Book:

It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic’s girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband, Drago, is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.

In Kristin
Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Klara’s life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn’t afraid of Drago’s fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.

Thirsty follows a chain of unlikely events that keep Klara’s spirit aloft: a flock of angelic butterflies descends on Thirsty; Klara gives birth to her first child in Old Man Rupert’s pumpkin patch; and
BenJo gives her a talking bird. When Klara’s daughter marries a man even more brutal than Drago, Klara is forced to act. If she doesn’t finally break the cycle of violence in her family, her granddaughters will one day walk the same road, broken and bruised. As the threads that hold her family together fray and come undone, Klara must decide whether she has the courage to carve out a peaceful spot in the world for herself and her girls.

About the Author:

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe grew up in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. Her maternal grandfather, a Croatian immigrant, worked as a steelworker in U.S. Steel’s Clairton Works all his life. Nearly every weekend as a kid, Kristin visited her grandparents’ home in Clairton on a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River. As she played tag with her sisters, the smokestacks filled the sky with their gaseous utterances and the barges toted their haul down the river.

Kristin’s articles and essays have been published in Poets & Writers Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Baltimore Review, San Diego Family Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. Her column—The Fiction Writing Workshop—appears monthly in the popular ezine Writers on the Rise. In 2008, her work was translated into Chinese and published in China’s most popular weekly news magazine, Oriental Outlook Weekly, and she is featured in the Bylines 2009 Writers’ Desk Calendar.

With a B.A. in English and journalism from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago, Kristin has always combined her love of writing with teaching. She is a passionate writing instructor with fifteen years of workshop experience at U.S. colleges and universities, including Boston College, Endicott College, Montserrat College of Art, University of New Hampshire, and Columbia College Chicago.

My Thoughts:

O'Keeffe is a gifted writer, one who knows how to use words to paint pictures and draw out emotions in people. Thirsty is a novel about pain--the pain of domestic abuse, the pain of working in a steel mill, the pain of losing loved ones, the pain of racial prejudice and the pain of alcohol. It certainly wasn't a fun light read, but the ending was hopeful.

The main characters are Catholic Croatian immigrants. Early in the book a large number of butterflies come to Thirsty, a mill town near Pittsburgh. It is locally seen as a miracle and it draws people back to the Church. However, O'Keeffe notes that the priest "threw away the collection of Latin prayers he had compiled over the years and recycled every few Sundays without the parishioners even noticing the repetition. Instead, he opened his Bible to the most poignant passages and spoke to the people from his heart in their common language--English". Since this supposedly happened in 1884, I'll have to point out that the mass was said in Latin at that time, and no priest would have changed it to English. However, even the Latin mass had a vernacular homily on the readings of the day.

I found the ending happy, but not realistic.


Purchase from Amazon:Thirsty: A Novel


  1. Oh I know I would LOVE this!! I live in the Pittsburgh area and love its history! Thanks for sharing! I'm wishlisting this book!!!

    xoxo~ Renee

  2. Pretty please????


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