Seventeen-year-old Hiram is trapped between the values of his immigrant family and the reality of life in the late nineteenth century on New York City’s Lower East Side. When a local bully picks on Hiram and his younger brother, stealing their wages and beating them up, Hiram decides to defy his parents and learns how to fight back. Hiram works in a brick factory by day and, at night, takes boxing lessons from Lightning, a prizefighter and a former slave who soon becomes Hiram’s friend. Hiram’s dedication to his friend, loyalty to his family and skills as a fighter are all tested as Lightning’s past catches up to him.
This fast-paced, story will appeal to those who are interested in immigrant history or boxing. While there isn’t much time for character development in this short chapter book, readers will appreciate Hiram’s struggle between his family’s Jewish values of shalom bayit (“peace in the home”) and wanting to defend himself on the tough streets of New York. Judaism is clearly depicted in the book: Shabbat meals, a friend who longs to become a rabbi, and the Yiddishisms sprinkled throughout the story. Lightning’s Run is a part of the publisher’s Bareknuckle Series, each book featuring a different teenage boy learning to fight in 1870s New York City.
Recommended for ages 9 – 12.