The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor tells the story of Maggie Murphy, a seventeen year old Irish immigrant traveling on the Titanic to join her family in Chicago. It is also the story of Grace, Maggie’s granddaughter, who never knew that her Nana had been on Titanic and now feels compelled to write the story of her life and her survival.
The story goes back and forth between characters in 1915 and 1981, rotating between Maggie’s perspective and that of other minor characters that are aboard the Titanic, and then back to Grace and her life. Present-day Grace is going through her own personal turmoil and the encouragement of her great-grandma Maggie helps her see that she needs to be living her life, not hiding from it. Grace has had her share of loss and heartbreak but the discovery that Maggie survived Titanic brings new inspiration and motivation to her life.
The beginning of the book lets you fall in love with these characters; their stories and quirks and hopes and dreams, only to have it all come crashing down on April 15, 1915. It’s quite sad to read the beginning knowing what is going to happen, but of course there are lots of unexpected events that transpire and even if you think you know what is going to happen, you won’t.
Hazel Gaynor is known for her work in historical fiction and if you’ve never read one of her books this is a great one to start with. The sinking of Titanic has of course been a riveting event of cultural fascination from the moment it happened on April 15, 1915. Maggie’s story is heartbreaking (she was one of the Addergoole Fourteen who sailed on the Titanic, and there is actually a memorial dedicated to them in Ireland) and I tore through the book, eager to see what happened next. The Girl Who Came Home is an easy and enjoyable read, full of cliffhangers and unexpected twists.