UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY

Pamela Schoenewaldt

A shopkeeper’s daughter, Hazel Renner lives in the shadows of the Pittsburgh steel mills. She dreams of adventure, even as her immigrant parents push her toward a staid career. But in 1914, war seizes Europe and all their ambitions crumble. German-Americans are suddenly the enemy, “the Huns.” Hazel herself is an outsider in her own home when she learns the truth of her birth.

Desperate for escape, Hazel takes a teaching job in a seemingly tranquil farming community. But the idyll is cracked when she acquires a mysterious healing power—a gift that becomes a curse as the locals’ relentless demand for “miracles” leads to tragedy.

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A shopkeeper’s daughter, Hazel Renner lives in the shadows of the Pittsburgh steel mills. She dreams of adventure, even as her immigrant parents push her toward a staid career. But in 1914, war seizes Europe and all their ambitions crumble. German-Americans are suddenly the enemy, “the Huns.” Hazel herself is an outsider in her own home when she learns the truth of her birth.

Desperate for escape, Hazel takes a teaching job in a seemingly tranquil farming community. But the idyll is cracked when she acquires a mysterious healing power—a gift that becomes a curse as the locals’ relentless demand for “miracles” leads to tragedy.

Hazel, determined to find answers, traces her own history back to a modern-day castle that could hold the truth about her past. There Hazel befriends the exiled, enigmatic German baron and forges a bond with the young gardener, Tom. But as America is shattered by war and Tom returns battered by shell-shock, Hazel’s healing talents alone will not be enough to protect those close to her, or to safeguard her dreams of love and belonging. She must reach inside to discover that sometimes the truth is not so far away, that the simplest of things can lead to the extraordinary.

Filled with rich historical details and intriguing, fully realized characters, Under the Same Blue Sky is the captivating story of one woman’s emergence into adulthood amid the tumult of war.

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  • William Morrow
  • Paperback
  • May 2015
  • 352 Pages
  • 9780062326638

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About Pamela Schoenewaldt

Pamela Schoenewaldt’s first novel, When We Were Strangers (HarperCollins, 2011), was a USA Today Bestseller, a major book club pick, a Barnes & Noble Great Discovery, short-listed for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction, and has been translated into Polish, Dutch, and Russian. Swimming in the Moon (HarperCollins, 2013) was cited by the Pittsburgh Examiner as a “a must read for anyone who enjoys beautiful, richly drawn characters, and a historical setting so realistic that one would believe they had been transported to another time. A glorious, unforgettable novel, A+.” It was a runner-up for the Langum Prize and connects powerfully with those who struggle with the impacts of mental illness in their families.

Pamela lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy and the United States. Her play, “Espresso con mia madre” (Espresso with my mother) was performed at Teatro Cilea in Naples. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee. Her interactive writing workshops inspire writers of all genre and stages.

Pamela lives with her husband, Maurizio Conti, a physicist, and their dog Jesse, a philosopher.

Praise

Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.” — Ann Weisgarber, author of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree and The Promise

From the smoke-filled streets of Pittsburgh to the war-ravaged landscape of Europe, ?Under the Same Blue Sky is the story of one woman’s wonderfully determined journey through a world at the edge of war to seek her family’s past and her own future.” — Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“Schoenewaldt has done it again – crafted a rich and refreshing tale that not only sweeps us back to the American landscape of 1914 but keeps us bound to the page as young German-American Hazel Renner fights for her dreams while war rages on abroad.” — Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of The Funeral Dress and Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

Discussion Questions

Hazel’s mother sees signs of an extraordinary future for her daughter. While Hazel’s healing powers in Galway are certainly extraordinary, in what other, quieter ways does her mother’s prediction come true?

Discuss the nuanced nature of Hazel’s sudden gift of healing powers. How might a similar gift play out in your community?

What roles does Ben Robinson play in Hazel’s journey throughout the novel?

Hazel’s journey is often driven by dreams of the past and of the future. Can you compare this to your own experience?

How are the qualities of air—smoke, fog, blue sky—woven into the plot and themes of Under the Same Blue Sky?

Hazel, Tom, and Georg were in various ways “orphaned.” How does this fact help bring them together?

As Hazel gradually discovers, the legacy of her birth mother, Margit Brandt, is complex. What challenges and unexpected gifts comprise this legacy?

What experiences help prepare Hazel for the challenge of life with Tom when he returns shell shocked, or as he would be diagnosed today, with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

The communities in this novel struggle with cultural and ethnic diversity. How has this struggle changed or not changed in the last century?

“We’re not the same,” Jim Burnett says after the war. How does the experience of World War I transform characters and communities in this novel?