Adult historical fiction
"I was the first orphan under the stoop that night but by
midnight there were three more. Tommy was the oldest scoundrel and
his nose was crooked from being bashed so many times.
'You just gotta learn how to steal food, or sneak into houses at
night to get warm,' Tommy said, as if breaking the law were no big deal.
'There are other ways a girl could get warm in the big city,'
Karen said, inching her skirt up her leg and giving me a wink..."
Tabitha, protagonist of Julie Dewey's Forgetting Tabitha, is
only ten when her mother dies unexpectedly, leaving her alone in the
world. In pre Civil War New York City poor orphans end up literally
on the street, pushed into getting by by shining shoes, selling
newspapers, begging, stealing, or selling their bodies. The few
institutions for unlucky children are grim places that could have
But there were people who wanted those children to have a
brighter future. The open country was considered far more wholesome
than city slums; adoption or apprenticeship much more propitious than
life on the streets. The orphan trains took the cleaned up children
West, stopping at stations where they are shown off to prospective
Tabitha, now renamed Mary, travels with trepidation. Cute
infants and toddlers are outright adopted. Older kids like her are
often taken in by people needing low cost hired hands. Who, if
anyone, will take her in? And what about the little boy who won't let
even the nicest people seperate them? What are the chances such an
unlikely will get chosen together?
Read the book and find out.
As affecianados of juvenile and YA fiction know, the Orphan
Train saga constitutes a fascinating chapter in this nation's
history. Now adult adults can discover it for themselves.
On a personal note, the book was scary for me in a personal way. The
mother in it died from an infection stemming from a bad tooth. I was
in the middle of a tooth ache that lasted several days, making me
unable to eat or sleep. Fortunately I was able to clear it up.
A great big shout out goes out to all who are working to bring
universal health care to America. Every year the preventable death
toll from lack of access to medical care dwarfs the fatalities
terrorists inflict on us ever.
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