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I recently had a few comments/questions wondering how the heck I read as much as I do. I have to tell you guys – when I get into a reading groove, I barely watch any TV at all. It’s me, my bed, and my book! I have been in a true reading frenzy lately. I am flying through books, and I can’t wait to pick up where I left off the night (or car ride) before!
Okay, to be technical about this book, I didn’t actually read it. I listened to it. I have recently gotten into listening to books during my drive to and from school. It used to drive me batty to listen to mindless radio, and now I am listening to novels – awesome! I was late to the Orphan Train bandwagon… it seems like so many people have already read it. I LOVED this book, like – it may have been one of the best books I have read in quite some time.
Orphan Train follows the story of two girls – Vivien (who as a young girl had a different name) and Molly – both of whom are without families and in the foster care system. The only difference is that Vivien’s experience was during the 1920’s and 1930’s and Molly is a teenager in the 2010’s. This story weaves back and forth and shares the heartache and challenges of being a child in the system.
This novel was full of historical information. I had absolutely no idea that orphan trains existed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The trains would take children from the Children’s Aid and bring them on a journey through the United States, all of them hoping and praying to be taken in by a family who loves and cares for them. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. Children were used as free labor, were abused, and were in horrible conditions in a lot of the cases.
When Molly finds trouble, she finds herself at the mercy of Vivien, who allows her to work through her community service hours helping her clean out her attic. What Molly doesn’t expect to find, however, is a connection and friendship to an elderly woman.
This book made me laugh as well as cry (okay, I cried a lot) and was a powerful read.
This book was free on Kindle Unlimited, so I decided to give it a shot. I was looking for another story that weaved back and forth between modern day times and some sort of other time period. It was similar to Orphan Train in that sense and in the sense that it followed two young girls throughout some of their adolescence/adulthood. It was also similar in the fact that one of the main characters was a foster child as well. The rest of the book was captivating, and I could not stop reading – but that was where the similarities between What She Left Behind and Orphan Train ended.
Izzy Stone, a foster child ever since her mother shot her father when she was eight, is in a new foster home. They are employees of a local museum, and their next job is to look through suitcases and files at an insane asylum nearby – Willard State Asylum. Izzy comes across a suitcase filled with letters and beautiful things, and she is interested in finding out more about the patient, Clara. The story jumps back and forth between Izzy and Clara, and very early in the book the author tells us that Clara was sent to an insane asylum because her father was angry that she would not marry the man he wanted her to. Clara is sent to another state ward, Willard, where the conditions are horrible.
When I was reading this book, I became interested in finding out more about whether this book had any historical references. Apparently there really IS a Willard Aslyum that closed in 1995 (when the book was supposedly taking place) and there really was a research project done where museum employees looked at the contents of the suitcases that were left behind. I also did a little research on the treatments that were used in asylums in the 1920’s when this story takes place, and reading about that was horrific – and the book definitely does give details about the treatment the patients received. Throughout the novel it seemed like there were many women who were in the asylum who weren’t truly in need of psychiatric help, and after a little probing and looking around online – that really did happen quite frequently in the early 1900’s.
This novel was definitely an interesting read, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. I would definitely recommend it!
What have you recently read?