If you’re up for something different THE LONGING might be just the thing.
In the early 1900’s thousands of immigrants crossed under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty to find freedom and opportunity in America.
In The Longing, history and culture provide the backdrop as the Taten family makes the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States from Holland. Like immigrants the world over, the Tatens discover that the longing for the comfort, traditions, and familiarity of one’s homeland never ends.
It’s 1904, and Dora Taten wants to leave an untenable situation in the Netherlands to forge a new life in the United States. Not everyone in her newly blended and extended family—not even her husband, Paul—is convinced that this is a good idea. But enough members of this tightly knit Dutch family decide to take the risk and journey to America. They prepare as much as they can, but many surprises and challenges, good and bad, await them.
Part family saga, part-coming-of-age story—this richly textured novel is drawn from author Cornelia Warmenhoven’s life experience and is colored with language, details, and illustrations that give a snapshot of life in another country and in another time. Step back in time and enjoy a simply good story, well told. It will delight and warm the heart
THE LONGING tells the story of why the Taten family decides to leave Holland and immigrate to America, where the streets are paved with gold, during the early 1900s and their lives once they’ve arrived.
THE LONGING is the heartfelt story of one immigrant family’s travails and triumphs in America. Unlike many who immigrated, the Taten’s reasons weren’t financial; however,America did offer them opportunities unavailable to them in Holland.
Paul is the patriarch of the Taten family.Paul wasn’t, per se, a bad man. He had been catered to all his life by his mother, sister and wives. He was prone to melancholy and depression, especially when things didn’t go the way he thought they should or wanted them to. He was often self –centered. Can’t say that I liked him but, then again, I didn’t dislike him. Paul, in my estimation, was a weak man when it came right down it. When he went off pouting I thought someone should call him on it instead of walking on eggshells and babying him.
Jennie was Paul’s first wife; she died shortly after giving birth to Maarten. Jennie was very committed to Paul and their children. She also stood up for what she believed in, regardless of what others might say or think. Jennie was fragile physically though, perhaps from having so many children so closely together.
Janneken is Paul’s oldest daughter–kind and good natured. Janneken was, overall, the only one who attempted to be nice to Dora until the possibility of immigrating to America came up.
Gertie is the second daughter. Blunt, practical and smart she was one of my favorite characters.
Fred is the oldest son. Always cheerful and determined Fred was another favorite.
Lisa is the third daughter and very much her father’s daughter. In addition to Paul’s moroseness Lisa could be very knowingly hateful.
Magda and Maarten are Paul’s youngest daughter and son. After Jennie’s death Magda lived with Nel and Maarten lived with Oma. For various reasons they stayed in Holland when the rest of the family went to America.
Oma is Paul’s mother. She takes responsibility for Maarten after Jennie’s death. She and Nel helped Jennie with the children and household duties for years due to her poor health.
Nel is Paul’s sister. Unable to have children of her own she looks on her nieces and nephews as partly hers, especially Magda. Nel considers Magda hers and resents any interference even though she strives to hide it.
Piet is Nel’s husband. Piet is well aware of Nel’s feelings and faults and loves her dearly. He’s considered the wise one, always thinking carefully before saying anything. The family, as a whole, values his counsel.
Jacob is Oma’s brother. Jacob is a labor leader in a local factory. He’s much younger than Oma and not much is seen of him until after the Taten’s move to America.
Dora is Paul’s second wife. Spinster daughter of a local wealthy farmer,Dora nursed her mother until her death. Her father is distant, thinking more of his money than his daughter. They lead separate lives while living in the same house. Dora encounters Paul for the first time at the cemetery. In the village Dora was known, unkindly and rather unjustly, as The Hunchback so she rarely ventured there. Poor Dora,Jennie was a tough act to follow and it’s nearly impossible to compete with a ghost. Along with Fred and Gertie, Dora was a favorite.
Rachel is a Lithuanian Jewish girl they welcome into their family when her brother dies on the ship, leaving her alone.
Ko, a fellow Dutchman they meet on board the ship.
The Anderses,Anna and Ben, along with their sons Ralph, Finch, and John are a wonderfully warm and loving family. Gertie goes to work for Anna shortly after moving to Wisconsin and the family plays a large role in the lives of the Tatens.
THE LONGING started a bit slow but that was most likely my adjustment to the writing style. Simple and understated, the Taten’s lives flowed easily, conveying depth and a slew of emotions without being melodramatic and flamboyant.
By far my favorite characters were Dora, Gertie and Fred. I adored Fred’s passion for life, learning and his upbeat optimistic attitude. I very much admired the work ethic displayed by all the characters. It’s something you don’t see much of anymore.
Gertie had a straight forwardness and honesty combined with a warmth that just drew you to her. She was big enough to admit when she was wrong and apologize when necessary.
Dora, while the most maligned by others through the book, was my absolute favorite. Dora’s decision to fight for her marriage irrevocably changes her life and the lives of those around her. She made the only choice she could, given the circumstances, so the only ones to blame were those who left her no alternative. Dora displays a quiet dignity you can’t help but respect.
THE LONGING isn’t my usual type of read so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and credit that fact to the way it was written. I could easily have been reading about my great grandparents who emigrated from Belgium and also settled in Wisconsin. Like me you may find it impossible not to compare then and now. Ms.Warmenhoven does an excellent job showing the Dutch culture and the Taten’s adjustments and sincere effort to assimilate. THE LONGING is an engaging immigrant story that focuses on the characters’ lives and doesn’t have an agenda or point to make; making it highly readable and easy to get lost in.
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Cornelia Warmenhoven has led a storied life traveling the globe. As a young nurse in the Netherlands in the 1940s, Cornelia joined the Dutch Resistance against the Nazis. Soon after World War II ended, Cornelia married Henri Warmenhoven, a Dutch national who had grown up in Indonesia and who had been interned in a Japanese prison camp during the war. While Henri earned his degrees as a political scientist and lawyer, Cornelia lived with him and their son, George, in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Europe before the family settled for good in the United States. She lives in Richmond and Georgetown, Virginia.