Genre: Historical Fiction
Virginia, 1933: Her heart broke as she took in the scene before her. There were too many orphans and not enough beds. The rags they wore barely covered them and they hadn’t eaten in days. How could anyone let innocent children live like this? She picked up a tiny girl who’d cried as she moved past her cot. “I’ll be back soon, little one.”
Never in a million years did Lauren Greenwood think she would be homeless, destitute and without a penny to her name. But when her father mercilessly disowns her, that is her fate. Out on the streets, America is in the devastating grip of the Great Depression––children run wild in the streets, endless queues for soup kitchens line sidewalks, and desperation hangs in the air.
All alone in the world, Lauren finds an orphanage in the sprawling fields of the Virginia countryside––a safe haven for those who have nowhere to go. But she is appalled to find orphans living in shocking conditions, their hunger keeping them awake and making them too weak to even play. The home for unloved children is on the brink of closure and the helpless innocents may lose the roof over their heads…
Lauren, heartbroken by the rejection of her own father, vows to provide these poor orphans with the love she never received and is determined to save their home from ruin. When she sees an advertisement in the local newspaper, with an anonymous benefactor donating money to families crippled by the Depression, it could be the answer to her prayers.
Can she save these children who have been rejected by the world? Or in a time of so much suffering, is there simply no hope?
A heartbreaking yet hopeful tale about a brave young woman who gives up everything to help unloved children who have nothing. Fans of Before We Were Yours, The Orphan Train and Diney Costeloe will adore this poignant historical novel, which shows that a little bit of kindness can go a long way.
My verdict. Firstly thank you to Netgalley for letting me read the book prior to its release I am so glad to have discovered Ms Wesson. A heartwarming and equally heartwrenching story about a wealthy young woman who has a lot of privileges and luxuries but sees the devastating affects of poverty in her community and yet, people think she shouldn’t help because ‘it’s not a woman’s place.’ Lauren is a likeable and headstrong young woman who’s simply undermined and seen as a commodity, only good for Marriage, children, sex and being the ultimate hostess simply because of her gender. Thankfully because of her great aunt Nanny she doesn’t inherit their society’s morals and preconceived ideas and is instead made aware of the injustices due to someone’s gender or wealth. As well as dealing with themes of feminism, privilege and traditional gender roles, it deals with domestic abuse, rape, male privilege and child neglect. It also highlights the struggles of those who were put in impossible situations due to the Great Depression in America, reminiscent of Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men as well as Alice Walkers The Colour Purple. It makes a change to be reading about pre-1930s America as opposed to pre-World War II and post 1950. I loved each and every minute of this story and found all the characters (even the villains) to spring right of the page and it was nice to see them all having an arc towards the end of the novel.
The descriptions were fabulous, highlighting the decadence of Lauren’s life before the orphanages and the stark contrast to her life after. The overall message I gleaned from this read is that having everything is great but love is more important. I loved Becky whom often butted heads with Lauren because she thought that ‘do gooders’ only involve themselves with the less fortunate to stop themselves feeling guilty and Lauren does indeed learn a lot about pride through her well intended mistakes but Becky also learns that having fancy clothes and a nice house comes with its own restraints. Through the narrative we also learn through patty’s storyline That even though she may be a housemaid she is still seen as a country heck who people like Justin Believe I like disposable commodities once they’ve had their fill.
The southern setting and idea of the community pulling together in times of need reminded me of JoJo Moyes The Giver of stars with a dash of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help added for good measure. It was almost like a warm hug on a winters day. I have to applaud the author for writing the southern dialect so well that not only disprove that those who speak like that are less than intelligent but are representing real people. Overall, an emotional rollercoaster of a read with sprinkles of happiness here and there whilst remaining true to the society and period at the time. This storyline, characters and book in general is proof that good can triumph over evil and if we all pull together, we can make a change.