I received this book free from the publisher. All opinions are my own
Series: Orphan Train (Book 2)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (May 1, 2018)
Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children's Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.
Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children--firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won't go away--and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.
Meet the author - Jody Hedlund
Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.
Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).
When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.
Interview with Jody Hedlund
1. What is the inspiration behind your orphan train series?
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.
2. What special research did you do in writing Together Forever?
In researching the roles of CAS placing agents, I came across one of the most well known placing agents, Clara B. Comstock, who traveled west with children from 1911 to 1928. During her years as a placing agent, she made seventy-four trips and wrote about her experiences.
I drew from her notes about what it was like before the trip, the clothes the orphans were given, to the detailed lists of supplies and food she packed. She also spoke of what it was like during the journey west along with what happened once they arrived at their destinations, including an incident where she was quarantined with a young five year old boy who contracted diphtheria.
At the end of her life, Clara Comstock said this about her experiences: “The work was a great adventure in Faith. We were always helped and grew to expect kindness, deep interest and assistance everywhere. A sense of responsibility was keenly felt by all the workers. My life has been greatly enriched by the varied experiences found in everything the Children’s Aid Society and the contacts made. It is an honor to have followed from afar, the founder of this work.”
3. Usually readers are more sympathetic to the orphans and less forgiving of the charity organizations who placed the orphans in the west. How do you elicit reader empathy for the placing agents?
In Together Forever
, I hoped to portray the struggles that placing agents felt right along with the struggles of the orphans. I have no doubt what the orphans experienced was far more emotional and painful; nevertheless, the job of the placing agent was not an easy one. It consisted of weeks of demanding traveling, difficulty in placing children, as well as the logistical challenges in revisiting each child before returning to New York City.
The agents not only faced the ups and downs of handling such a wide variety of children, but they also faced the challenges of the job itself. Since nothing had ever before been done like the placing out, the agents basically had to learn on the job and make up the rules as they went.
In the early years, record-keeping was inconsistent, placements irregular, and the screening process non-existent. While many of the agents meant well and truly cared about providing better lives for the children in their care, the lack of consistent practices provided further hardships to many orphans. Overall, I hope readers are able to gain a better appreciation for the well-meaning efforts, even if things didn’t always turn out the way everyone wanted.
4. Do you have any writing quirks?
I don't have too many quirks, other than needing a cup of coffee on hand while I'm writing (especially in the morning!).
One of the things I like to do to help me keep on track with my writing is give myself half hour word count challenges–a specific goal of how many words I can get written in a thirty minute time span. Doing these mini-challenges keeps me from getting too distracted by other things while I'm in a writing mode.
5. What advice do you have for anyone interested in writing and pursuing publication?
Write a couple of books first and unleash your creativity. Then start reading books that explain how to write. Study techniques, practice them, and keep writing. When you begin reaching a level in your writing where you think you’re ready for publication, get a critique partner or two to read your work and give you feedback, vamp up your online presence, and immerse yourself in the writing industry by learning all you can about traditional and self-publication. Don’t rush into either! Make sure your writing craft and story-telling skills are ready first.
I enjoyed this book even better than the first one. The author does a good job of really making the emotions of the story come across in her writing. She did a great job with her research and really bringing out the details of the Orphan Train. Your heart just breaks for the kids. I liked that there were two people who really had a passion for helping the kids find good homes and in the mean time may even grow closer together themselves. Marianne had hopes of finding her lost sister and we got to go on her emotional journey of searching for her. Even though that was her original purpose for joining up with the Children's Aid Society she was a good asset and caring for the kids. The author kept me reading as I also wanted to find out what Andrew's secret from his past that he was keeping hidden. I thought the characters were very well developed and likable. I will be looking forward to the next book in this series.