City of God by Beverly Swirling takes you back to the 1800′s. It makes history of New York City fascinating and believable by intertwining the characters’ stories with real facts about New York in its early days. However, some characters are almost unbelievable, e.g., Carolina evolves from a very shy, ignorant of basic health and sex issues, young wife, totally intimidated by her husband to a vibrant, daring for the times woman who chooses a live-in liaison with her lover, bears more children and becomes a fantastic businesswoman (in the 1800′s????) and a leader in the underground slave rescue.
The dangers and great profit from drug activity, here it’s opium, are very well described. The main character, Carolina’s first husband, Sam Devrey, succumbs to opium and leaves his Chinese wife and child without protection in a very dangerous city. Carolina takes over their rescue. She is a most extraordinary woman of her day. I find it unbelievable. The jewish immigrant families are well portrayed, as is the Catholic nuns, schools and hospitals. I found Mei Lin, the only child of Mei-hua and Devrey, most believable, and admirable.
It was a bit depressing to read of the hardships and difficulties in the times portrayed in the book, but still a most exciting and enjoyable conclusion.