A Riveting Look at the Orphan Train from Historical Novelist Jody Hedlund.
When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance. The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.
With You Always is the first installment of Jody Hedlund’s Orphan Train series and to be truthful is a great beginning. I had the privilege of being apart of Jody Hedlund’s influencer team for this book. For me personally, being an influencer for any author is hard because I never want to hurt the author’s feelings by not liking their books. Jody Hedlund does not have to worry though. I really liked this book. Everything about the book, the time period, the characters , and the plot was intriguing till the end. When I was reading this book, I could imagine each scene. Elise and Thornton are great main characters. I started this book thinking “Oh, I will be able to put this down, when I need to do other things,” but that was not the case. Every time I was interrupted, I was like, “No, I need to keep reading. Go away.” So last night, I was up really late reading and I finished the book. Hedlund did an excellent job with this book. A good book, to me, is a book that I cannot put down, and I could not put this book down.
I would recommend this book and cannot wait for the next two in this series. To readers who like historical fiction, this books is worth taking the time to read.
Title: With You Always
Author: Jody Hedlund
Author’s Website: http://jodyhedlund.com/
Reading Resolution 1. Read a book where the author is from your home state.
I received this book from the Bethany House Publishing of the Baker Publishing Group for this review.
This review is written in my own words and is my honest opinion.
Keep reading to read a few great questions that Jody Hedlund answered about her new book. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did!
Q: What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?
A: I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes. While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.
Q: What special research did you do in writing With You Always?
A: In the beginning phases of writing this series, I did a great deal of reading about the orphan train movement. In particular, I really loved Stephen O’Conor’s book, Orphan Trains, because he includes so many personal stories and details about real orphans, which are heart wrenching. I also read, A History of New York City to 1898, by Burrows and Wallace, which gave me great insights into the lives of immigrants, particularly immigrant women. Masses of foreigners were arriving into New York City on a daily basis, and the book gave a detailed look into their pathetic housing situation, the difficult working conditions, as well as gang problems and the underworld. Finally, another important aspect of the story that required a concentrated amount of research was the development of railroads. The mid-1800’s was an incredible period of growth for the railroad industry in the Mid-West. The new railroads aided the orphan train movement but also brought about the settlement of the Midwestern states, including Illinois, which is one of the settings of the book.
Q: An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?
A: An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts to bring about change in the city, but also brings them together in a satisfying love story. The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation, particularly how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?
A: One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab a hold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.