Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
392 Pages
Reviewed on 04/11/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash is a work of fiction in the historical epic sub-genre. It is suitable for all ages and was penned by author Tammy Pasterick. The story follows a married pair of immigrants living in Pittsburgh in the early 20th century, both being stretched to breaking point by their exploitive employers. The husband, Janos, has been working a physically demanding job 12 hours a day every day for ten years, whilst his wife Karina is forced to tolerate the unwanted advances of her new employer or be returned to the boarding house. In the aftermath of their breaking point, all that remains is to try to put the pieces of their family back together once more.

Author Tammy Pasterick delivers a powerful and emotional work that I really took to heart. One of my favorite things about this novel was the author's keen eye for the historical details; the story felt well researched and the setting felt rich. Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash exudes atmosphere and intrigue and gripped me from the very first page. The Kovacs' journey is powerful, emotional, and real, and Pasterick does a masterful job of paying homage to the past sacrifices that people like the Kovacs made. The storytelling in this novel is second to none, telling a gripping story of the struggle immigrants faced, whilst keeping twists and turns you won’t see coming that served to keep the story engaging throughout. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to fans of action-packed fiction in a historical setting, and those looking for a meaningful story about mental health and the cost of facing our demons.

Heather Osborne

Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash by Tammy Pasterick is a family saga spanning nearly a decade in early 1910s America. Janos and Karina Kovac come to the United States from Eastern Europe, seeking the proverbial streets paved with gold. However, the reality is anything but. Janos works long hours shoveling coal into a furnace, and Karina keeps house for a middle-class man. Their children, Sofie and Lukas, do their best to help, troubled by their parents’ deteriorating marriage. Then, a horrible accident at the furnace has Janos reconsidering the life he’s built so far in grimy Riverton. As he contemplates a solution to their situation, Karina makes an ill-advised decision of her own. Can the family escape the shadows of their past and start anew, or will nightmares come back to haunt them?

I thoroughly enjoyed Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash by Tammy Pasterick. She adroitly blends the points of view of the characters to weave together a story of heartbreak and hope. I especially admire how she used characters from all economic backgrounds, and explored the hard topics of the day like mining accidents and the unionization of industrial workers. I also appreciated the discussion of infertility, as this was something many women have faced throughout time and had to remain silent about, or felt it was their own deficiencies that prevented them from becoming pregnant. I would recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in the early industrialization of the United States, as well as to anyone who enjoys historical novels that are driven by the characters’ emotions.

Edith Wairimu

Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash by Tammy Pasterick is a poignant novel that explores Pennsylvania’s coal and steel mining history through the lives of a Slovak family. When Janos and his wife, Karina, left for America, they were hopeful that they could build a decent life in their new country. When years pass with Janos working in the steel mills of Pennsylvania and Karina serving in a repulsive boarding house and later as a housekeeper, they become even more aware of the limited opportunities available for immigrants. When Karina’s employer notifies her of his impending departure to New York, Karina is faced with a choice. The thought of going back to work in the boarding house fills her with dread but the alternative is equally distressing.

Through Karina’s life and role in Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash, Tammy Pasterick examines the symptoms and effects of mental illness, an important and relevant topic. Via the experiences of another character in the novel, Pasterick also brings attention to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that can affect a woman’s ability to have a child. Other critical themes are explored including those of family relationships, grief, and resilience in the face of loss. Some lovely romantic strands are also added including that of Janos’s daughter, Sofie. The novel closely follows the main characters’ lives and by the end of the story, I felt like I knew them. Pasterick also does a great job of tying the plot’s ends together and creating a satisfactory conclusion that addresses each character’s story. Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash by Tammy Pasterick is a moving and well-researched work with unforgettable characters and impactful lessons.