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Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite
Woven around the parents of Stan Musial, the renowned baseball star, The Strongman and the Mermaid is historical fiction. Kathleen Shoop has bejeweled this book with her magnificent imagination and impeccable writing. Lukasz Musial and Miss Mary, unbeknownst to each other, share a mutual bond of faith and unwavering drive to surpass their current lifestyle. Mary is an American, and Lukasz dreams of making a life for himself in America. Lukasz lives a troubled and poor life in a Polish village. Since the day he heard about the kind of lifestyle America can provide, he decided to win the ticket that a sponsor was offering to one person in that village. On the other hand, Mary works day and night under the strict supervision and nonstop badgering of her mom. She works in a mine, in Mrs. Dunn's household as a maid, and each night rows the boat to get her father back from his work. Although her work and poverty should have broken her spirit, she has a firm belief that she will not continue to live in these poor conditions forever. In fact, she has fabricated a plan which involves a rich boy, Samuel, proposing to marry her one day. Even though she has discovered that Samuel is a bad dancer and even worse kisser, she is not going to let these shortcomings get in the way of her dreams.
As the story is set in 1910, many customs were shocking to me. Marrying kids and employing them at the age of 13 was the most shocking to me. The living conditions of Mary, her siblings, and her parents were so horrendous that I, as a reader, prayed for Mary to get the life that she so desired. Lukasz was disappointed to see the difference between the America that he had heard about and the America that he was looking at now. Nevertheless, his drive and passion to make a home for himself were bigger than any other desires. A nobleman with no land or money, his character is so refined that he does not sulk about anything; instead, he pushes himself and continues dreaming. He wants romance, a wife, and a child, and although he slips a couple of times by temptation, his priority is always to be a worthy man. His chivalry and drive won my heart.
The Strongman and the Mermaid by Kathleen Shoop is not an ordinary romance. It 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. I would recommend this book to readers who appreciate a long and beautiful tale of romance and struggle.