Saturday, May 19, 2018

Review: Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

Book Two in the Orphan Train series

 Heidi Reads... Together Forever by Jody Hedlund

My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing


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.

My Review

I loved that this second book in the series was directly involved with the placing out of orphans and their experiences along the journey. I've been fascinated by this part of history since reading the Orphan Train Adventures books by Joan Lowrey Nixon as a youth, and now that I've adopted two children of my own it's especially close to my heart. Marianne seems to have grown a bit since the previous book, where desperate circumstances drove her to make questionable choices, the ends justifying the means. She faces challenges while accompanying the children on the train that she handles with grace and strength, and following Andrew's example, allows her caring influence to be a blessing in the lives of the orphans. I appreciated that the author portrayed both the advantages and challenges of the orphan train movement and the perspective of the placing agents and what they felt and experienced.

Marianne and Andrew's romance was impetuous since the rules forbid placing agents from fraternization, but they naturally grew close through the obstacles and unexpected tragedies they faced. Even though there were hardships, Marianne and Andrew's bright personalities brought light and laughter to the story, bringing balance and relief from the anxiety of the circumstances. I enjoyed that they played with the children on breaks and sang songs and told stories to them, even when Marianne was out of her comfort zone. One of my favorite parts that made me laugh out loud was young Jethro's innocent question when he witnessed a kiss between Marianne and Andrew- so funny! I'd hate to spoil it so you'll just have to read the book and keep an eye out for it ;)

Reinhold, Marianne's family friend from New York, is also a part of the story and his perspective provides a lead-in to the next book, which will feature him and the youngest Neumann sister, Sophie. He has overcome so much from his past, and his hard work and determination to succeed are finally coming to fruition in a thriving community. I felt so frustrated for him as his plans to buy his own farm and care for his family are thwarted and he must come up with a solution to his growing problems. I'm thoroughly enjoying this historical series and can't wait to read the next book!

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

Check out the other books in the Orphan Train series . . .

FREE prequel novella


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?

Book One
Heidi Reads... With You Always by Jody Hedlund


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.

Book Three

Releasing December 2018, available for Pre-Order!


Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won't abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he's in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

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