Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

Heidi Reads... With You Always by Jody Hedlund

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


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.

My Review

The plot of this book is not quite what I expected- when I hear "orphan train" I picture the children from the city getting placed in families out West. The author instead focuses on an orphaned family being torn apart as unemployed women are sent on trains to help establish new towns where there are jobs waiting to be filled. Of course, my expectations of the quality of writing were met- I learned so much history, was immersed in the setting, and the characters came to life with emotion and feeling as they navigate complex relationship dynamics and uncertain and desperate circumstances. The main perspectives are Elise and Thorton as they embark on new ventures in Illinois, but we also see some scenes from Elise's family she had to leave behind in New York. While Elise is the strong and stalwart oldest sister who takes on the responsibility of her sisters and the young children they take under their wing, on her journey we see her vulnerability and innocence as well as her fortitude and spunk. Thorton is drawn to her and his protective feelings quickly develop into something more, despite his plan to court and marry a high society lady he believes his father would approve of. Elise challenges his town development methods and unequal treatment of the female employees, and grows to admire him as he meets her challenges and is changed through the experience. There are villains lurking and conflict arises as Thorton's deadline grows closer, and Elise's concern for her sisters is validated. They both struggle with faith but their trials prove to be a refiner's fire that strengthens them as they reconcile with the Lord and turn to Him for guidance. Highly recommend to fans of historical fiction!

(I received a complimentary copy of the book; all opinions in this review are my own)

Don't Miss the FREE prequel novella in the Orphan Train series, An Awakened Heart


Trying to heal the ache she feels in her empty life, wealthy Christine Pendleton decides to volunteer at Centre Street Chapel. Ministering to one of the most deprived parts of New York City, the chapel aims at making a difference in the lives of the impoverished immigrants flooding the city. After seeing firsthand the hopelessness of the poor women and orphans, Christine is convinced more can be done to help them.

Guy Bedell has been serving at the chapel and pouring his heart out for the people he's grown to care about. When Christine begins to challenge his methods and offers a new vision for reaching out to the community, can he trust that perhaps God has bigger plans in store for him--plans that may include this feisty socialite?

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