The Syrian Peddler by Linda Hanna Lloyd is a fictionalised retelling of the author’s forebear’s immigration and settling in America in the early years of the twentieth century. Like so many Europeans, many people from the Middle East, sought a better life in the new world that was the rapidly developing United States, at the turn of the century. Many Syrians left their homeland, which was wracked with uncertainty and Turkish invasion, to seek a new life and to discover the American dream. We follow the adventures of Sadoo, later to become Samuel and finally Sam, from Aleppo, as he travels on this exciting new adventure from Syria to the coal towns of Western Pennsylvania. Despite the many trials and tribulations that these new adventurers were to encounter, Sam, like so many of his compatriots worked hard and thrived in the tough but rewarding environment.
What I particularly liked about this book was the knowledge that despite the day to day happenings to Sam and his friends and family being fiction, to a large extent, the realities were true. Linda Hanna Lloyd’s forebears did settle in Masontown and did create and run Hanna’s Department store. The author has clearly researched her family well and woven an interesting tale of life in the early 1900’s in rural America. I found the character of Sam to be compelling and the read was straightforward and simple. I certainly believe the author has done her family justice with this retelling. I did like the opportunity to she took, at the end of the book, to detail the lineage of the characters down from Sam and his family. This gave the book that spark of authenticity. For an interesting glimpse of a different type of American immigrant to the usual Italian or Irish variety, I can definitely recommend The Syrian Peddler as a very good read.