Home Recommended Reading Workshops About RSS

A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE: Historic Fiction ~Jan Shapin

A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE is a first novel by Jan Shapin, an author who has written a number of plays over the years. The writing about an ordinary young woman from Everett, Washington in 1916 is a dense reconstruction of how the Union organizing activities were being experienced across the USA.  Penny Jo experiences all the events and yet is truly the narrator of history being made and the underlying back story to the visible outcomes.

Penny Jo Copper (24 yrs. old) is breaking away from the family home in Everett by heading to Seattle and hoping to get a University education like her 19 year old brother, a scholarship winner. Her father has been sent to prison for his rowdy behavior and assault charges.  Her mother works in the canning factories and is not much concerned with keeping the family together, just her son’s success. Penny Jo discovers that her brother is organizing and has nearly dropped out of school.  She finds a coffee shop job and a shift at the University Laundry, her own little apartment, the University Library and a Biology Class she is invited to audit.  Penny Jo is on her way to her life on her own.

Horace, Penny Jo’s brother, is one of the 5 young men killed on the ferry in the Everett Massacre; she must identify the body and then is pulled into representing her family and brother in the parades and funerals of the 5 martyrs as the bereaved sister.    In the midst of all this turmoil, she experiences her first love.

The story involves many immigrants and their roles in the Union struggles.  A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE, then becomes a road show of Penny Jo’s life as a young man named Gabe moves her about the country representing the Everett events.  As the USA enters the war, Gabe is avoiding the Draft and takes her to Mexico where they connect with a Russian, an heiress, a man from India, and 2 young men who are maybe journalists. She makes a wonderful friend while in Mexico, the young servant girl Rosa.  The Russian is enlisting their help in smuggling jewels and Faberge Eggs to fund the war overseas.  Illegal entry back to the USA and we are bound by train rides to Chicago and Milwaukee, Washington DC and Baltimore.  Gabe is creating a new identity and Penny Jo is earning the money for food and rooms.

Favorite sentence:

“There men like that, carrying a word they call good, who, once established, choke out the good in others.”

Trains are extremely important in this story and they create a boundary for Penny Jo’s life.  She meets a stranger on the train who gives her guidance for her future and a chicken dinner.  She sees that her father has been killed in Spokane, Washington from the headlines of a newspaper being shouted by a newsy on a station platform; she must stop running and take care of family business.

A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE is a good way to learn history and find the depth and pulse.  Although I have studied these events through history classes, I was not aware of the details; the minister and his daughter’s role in the story was omitted from my history lessons at school.  The power of the immigrant population is explored; everyone comes to take control in this State and the independent win.  What an instructional read and what an interesting history lesson – A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE

tlc logo I was sent my copy of A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE by the author, Jan Shapin, and by TLC online book tours for review.   It was a pleasure and a good first novel.

Jan Shapin Online

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s  from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed. Thank you!

Recommended Reading (lots more reviews under this tab at the top of the page)
Hannah Coulter
The Paper Garden
Short Leash

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to “A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE: Historic Fiction ~Jan Shapin”

  1. Jan Shapin Says:

    Patricia – Thank you for a very warm review. You are right, trains are the boundaries to Penny Joe’s life — as I was writing it, I kept wondering if she was ever going to get off a train! It’s nice to have readers from the Pacific Northwest because Snug Life is so steeped in its history. Although I’m not from Washington State, I did go to college in Oregon so that special place is part of who I am. Thanks again and mention to your followers that there is a history link to these characters and events on my web page, http://www.janshapin.com
    Jan Shapin

    patricia Reply:

    Jan Shapin,
    It was a good read and much more interesting than my history classes. We have quite the history of community organizing and taking positions out West – We fought the railroad barons and the control of the East Coast mafia systems. We owe a great deal to Roosevelt and his corruption busting. The seeds of the unrest now as the Fossil Fuel Barons attempt to buy their way into polluting our waters and controlling on health care – the independents must stay alert.
    Lots of amazing stories in the Wild West…
    Let me tell your about GMO salmon wars…!

  2. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Patricia — Not only did I enjoy your review of A SNUG LIFE SOMEWHERE, it was fun to read the author’s comments to you, ask well! (and I followed her link to the historical aspects).

    THANK YOU, as always!
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..The Hurl PrincipleMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    The author’s link was very fun to search the characters!
    It was so much more fun to read then the dry history texts – I am sharing my copy with our local high school. Washington State History is a huge requirement for graduation here – much bigger than another place I have lived.

    It has stopped raining after several heavy downpour days. I am still laughing about THE HURL PRINCIPLE this morning – Zip is barking at all the birds out singing, cats and squirrels racing about – I think he may work himself up to a HURL PRINCIPLE !

    I love it when the author comments…and offers more insights or links. She has a great website.

  3. Sara Healy Says:

    Wow. I liked your review and this book sounds very interesting. I like historical books that both tell a story about a character, while teaching me about a time in history.

    In addition, I’ve always been fascinated by trains. Give where I grew up, there wasn’t much of a need for any kind of train, but I well remember my first ride on a train. I also remembering wishing there were more trains as I’m not a great flyer. Trains seem so much more relaxing:~)

    The history of unions is also of interest. It couldn’t have been easy to organize them, but they were so essential to making changes in this country and in other countries.

    I thought the author’s comment to you was wonderful, especially how you picked up the concept of the trains:~)

    Another well written review. Thank you, Patricia!
    Sara Healy recently posted..Story Photo Challenge: Take a ride on a jet skiMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    It was great that Jan Shapin came by and made a comment –
    I love trains and I like to sleep on boats and trains, but on my last train trip everyone was sick on the train and I got the virus for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and that took 2 years out of my life. My favorite train trip was across Canada from East to West on the Canadian Pacific. My father was an engineer on CP to earn his way through school – his father was also an engineer.

    I wish the trains I have traveled recently were cleaner – and the food is ugly!

    It was a good story and I have given my copy to the local high school history teacher and let the community organizing major at my local college know about it too. We very much support unions here

  4. Jan Shapin, author of A Snug Life Somewhere, on tour February 2014 | TLC Book Tours Says:

    […] Monday, March 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom […]

  5. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours Says:

    “There men like that, carrying a word they call good, who, once established, choke out the good in others.”

    That is a fantastic sentence and so very, very true.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

    patricia Reply:

    I just loved that sentence. Thank you for asking me!

  6. Jan Shapin Says:

    Thanks to all of you for paying attention to Patricia’s Wisdom and Penny Joe!

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for coming on by and connecting to the review and the commenters – how lucky for us.

    Thank you for the lovely notes and the copy of the book.
    Patricia recently posted..DANCE THE MOON DOWN: WWI Historic Novel ~R.L. BartramMy Profile