About the Book:
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.
SERIES: Orphan Train #1
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Fiction
PUBLISHER: Bethany House
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017
“Do it for all of us who’ve been lost at one time or another.”
Jody Hedlund has incredible talent – in creating characters, plots, and setting. And writing kisses. But more on that later. Perhaps my favorite thing about each new offering from her is that she spotlights (and honors) lesser known parts and populations of history. Sometimes these aspects have been tucked away inside history we do know & read about more frequently. But Hedlund finds the women, the immigrants, the conditions that few others write about – and she brings them vividly to life on the page.
In With You Always, she takes us on a tour of the Orphan Train era that may look different from what we initially expect. Instead of focusing on the children per se, she draws on other uses of the Orphan Train – specifically in bringing skilled (usually immigrant) workers west to help settle new towns along the railroad.
This was a time in our nation’s history where people had to make unthinkable decisions, separating families and sacrificing in agonizing ways. Children were put on the train by their parents, to be adopted by families in the west who could possibly give them a better life, out of poverty. Women were forced into prostitution just to have enough money to feed themselves and their children or siblings. Husbands, mothers, older siblings left their families to go west, hoping to earn enough money to send back and hopefully to eventually send for their families to join them.
Within this heartbreaking era, we meet Elise Neumann and Thornton Quincy. Elise, the daughter of German immigrants, makes a difficult decision in order that her siblings might stay together. She leaves them in poverty-stricken New York and accepts a placement through the Children’s Aid Society in a newly-established town in Illinois.
Her re-acquaintance with Thornton Quincy sets off attraction and dilemmas and, while a lot of what Hedlunds writes about in With You Always is quite sobering, the chemistry between Thornton and Elise opens the door for humor and warmth and – perhaps most importantly – hope. Their banter is fantastic, their kisses even more so! Not an insta-love but an instant respect that gradually deepens into a sweet friendship, challenging each other to be better people.
Bottom Line: With You Always by Jody Hedlund should be read with a box of tissues for the characters who go soul-deep and a fan for Thornton-in-love. This poignant novel will leave readers with a new appreciation for the marginalized in our nation’s history – and today – and it may prompt some soul-reflection as well. The message that God holds us close in our most hopeless moments is integrated into the story with both grace and truth. The characters will become part of you as you read, and this makes the perfect foundation for the next books in the series!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / Love it!
KissingBook Level: 4 / Keep those fans handy!
Guest review contributed by Reading Is My Superpower. Peek at Top Ten Tuesday and Favorites Friday but also frequent author interviews/giveaways in a style of review that stands out from the rest.