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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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23 / 51 states. 45% done!

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16 / 50 books. 32% done!

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6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

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22 / 100 books. 22% done!

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58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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60 / 165 books. 36% done!
Monday, November 01, 2021

Orphan Train Novel Uplifting and Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Traveling west on an orphan train is supposed to give impoverished kids from dirty, crowded New York City a chance at a better life. But hope is not exactly what Charles, Patrick, and Opal are feeling as they're paraded in front of prospective "parents" and prodded like animals. Eighteen-year-old Charles' bulk makes him attractive as a farmhand, but his bruised face brands him as a troublemaker. Patrick, a 14-year-old Irish immigrant, is passed over because of his foreign accent. Tiny, silent Opal is in obvious need of a loving home, but the 8-year-old is so haunted by her past that others are put off by her skittishness. By the time they near their last stop, the trio of misfits has had enough. Deciding that they're enough for each other, they hop the train in Montana, determined to survive on their own. 

A desperate act brings the children to the attention of Nara Stewart, a hard-working spinster who runs a cattle ranch with her father. Although she's loathe to admit it, Nara could use help working her land. She's got enough problems on her hands what with trying to prove herself to her father while trying to keep her growing, forbidden feelings for a Native American man under control. The last thing she needs is three scraggly orphans causing her more stress. Reluctantly, she puts Charles, Patrick, and Opal to work, expecting they'll run off rather than buckle down. Life on the ranch and in a rough frontier town is not easy for any of them, but as the days pass, the kids and the Stewarts are forming something that almost resembles...a family. With crises pummeling them on every front, will the makeshift group solidify into the thing all of them most need? Or will the tentative bond dissolve when trouble arrives on their doorstep?

As an adoptive mother, I'm fascinated by books about orphans, found family, the history of foster care/adoption, etc. I've read a few books about the orphan trains, a very interesting subject, so I was all in for You Belong Here Now, a debut novel by Dianna Rostad. I enjoyed the 1920's Montana setting, which felt vivid and authentic to me. I also liked the Stewart family, whose warmth is palpable, even if not all of them are the touchy-feely type. The kids at the center of the story are, of course, sympathetic. It's simple to root for their happiness. All of these things made You Belong Here Now a compelling and satisfying read for me. Which isn't to say I loved every word. With little in the way of plot, the story sometimes feels long and repetitive. Rostad's writing style is often more tell than show, so that made things drag even more. I also would have liked more character development from certain of the book's cast members. All in all, though, I enjoyed this novel, which is mostly uplifting and hopeful. Not all of its ribbons are tied up in neat bows at the end, but the novel is still a satisfying read.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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