More than ten million immigrants began their American adventures at Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. The Immigration Law of 1924 established strict quota guidelines and drastically slowed the flow of immigration. With fewer immigrants passing through Ellis Island, the nurses expected fewer admissions. But the doctors had more time for each examination; thereby noticing more than when they hustled immigrants through with less scrutiny. The 750 bed Ellis Island Hospital became busier; the nurses found they had to work longer hours with more patients than ever. The patients had diagnoses varying from appendicitis, typhus, pneumonia, pregnancy, broken bones and skin infections, all were in dire need of personal hygiene due to their cramped quarters on the ship and lack of facilities. Some arrived with no shoes and infected sore feet. Language was often a problem for nurses providing care to non-English speaking immigrants; and they relied on a large group of bilingual volunteers.
The story follows Doctor Abe, Nurses Angie, Adeline and Maureen along with a large cast of secondary and tertiary characters—whose lives weave in and out of historical events. Adoption, prohibition, kidnapping, rum-runners and organized crime thread the suspense from Ellis Island to the establishment of the Nativity Settlement House and Health Clinic in Brooklyn. Immersing themselves into their diverse immigrant neighborhood, they attempt to provide the services most needed to help the immigrants achieve their individual American dreams.
I was drawn to Ellis Angels on the Move because of my background in nursing. And I was not disappointed. Carole Lamata's forty year career in nursing adds authenticity as she describes the endless hours of patient care, the relationships between the nurses and doctors, as well as with their patients. She integrated the formality of titles used at that time into the dialogue, (Miss Angie, Miss Maureen, etc.), which at the beginning seemed a bit stilted to me. Once I became accustomed to it, I was totally captivated by the story. The author is a gifted story teller.
This well-researched novel is a great resource to understanding the challenges faced in their daily lives, before modern medicine. The nurse's dedication established a high standard of care, and this novel should be considered as required reading for nursing curriculum in colleges across the country.
Carole Lee Limata, RN, MSN graduated from Queens College, Flushing, N.Y. in 1968 and worked as a Registered Nurse. She earned a Master's Degree from the U. of California in San Francisco in 1980. This is her second novel. Follow her on Facebook.
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