The Woman in the Photo – Review (+Giveaway)

The Woman In the Photo


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In this compulsively readable historical novel, from the author of the critically-acclaimed Two Sisters, comes the story of two young women—one in America’s Gilded Age, one in scrappy modern-day California—whose lives are linked by a single tragic afternoon in history.

1888: Elizabeth Haberlin, of the Pittsburgh Haberlins, spends every summer with her family on a beautiful lake in an exclusive club. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains above the working class community of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the private retreat is patronized by society’s elite. Elizabeth summers with Carnegies, Mellons, and Fricks, following the rigid etiquette of her class. But Elizabeth is blessed (cursed) with a mind of her own. Case in point: her friendship with Eugene Eggar, a Johnstown steel mill worker. And when Elizabeth discovers that the club’s poorly maintained dam is about to burst and send 20 million tons of water careening down the mountain, she risks all to warn Eugene and the townspeople in the lake’s deadly shadow.

Present day: On her 18th birthday, genetic information from Lee Parker’s closed adoption is unlocked. She also sees an old photograph of a genetic relative—a 19th century woman with hair and eyes likes hers—standing in a pile of rubble from an ecological disaster next to none other than Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Determined to identify the woman in the photo and unearth the mystery of that captured moment, Lee digs into history. Her journey takes her from California to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from her present financial woes to her past of privilege, from the daily grind to an epic disaster. Once Lee’s heroic DNA is revealed, will she decide to forge a new fate?


This is a book that was truly “meh” for me. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t really like it either. However, there were many parts I did like.

While this was only my second historical fiction book, I can honestly say that what I disliked about the book had nothing to do with part of it being set in 1888. It was beautifully written, and while I don’t know any of the details about Johnstown, PA, the story was descriptive enough to clue me in.

First off, I loved Lee. She’s a young woman, who struggled with her life after her dad turned it upside down. She dealt with living in a pool house, and she did it without a chip on her shoulder. Sure, she was pissed at her dad, but that anger didn’t transfer to anyone or anything. Lee is strong, yet she is curious about her past. I was not adopted, so I can’t say I wouldn’t feel the same as she does. I adored Lee.

However, Elizabeth is a character I had trouble with. I didn’t like her demeanor. She’s super self-involved and doesn’t really care about much other than being away from her mother. I can relate to that, as I did when I was much younger. However, she is supposed to be 18, and she doesn’t act like it.

I found myself dreading her part each time I came to it. I do like how she redeemed herself a bit as she helped Clara Barton. I enjoyed reading about that. One thing I didn’t like was how short the chapters were. I felt like some of them were a filler, especially on Elizabeth’s side. I wish there would have been more from Lee, and her growth into the woman she was destined to become.

*I received a copy (and one for the giveaway) from HarperCollins / William Morrow, in exchange for my honest review.

The Giveaway is listed at the bottom! Don’t miss it!


Mary Hogan Mary Hogan is the bestselling author of Two Sisters, a novel inspired by her own sister, Diane Barbera Coté (1953-2010). Other novels include the young adult titles The Serious Kiss, Perfect Girl, and Pretty Face (HarperCollins), as well as a series of four teen books beginning with Susanna Sees Stars (Delacorte Press). Mary lives in New York City with her husband, the actor Robert Hogan, and their dog, Lucy, who has the soul of a cat. Video proof of Lucy’s cattiness can be see on Mary’s website:


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It starts on July 20th and ends on July 27th. Winner will be announced on July 29th.

If you entered in my giveaway, please tell me what you thought. It was my first one!


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