Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Orphan Train is a book set in both the present day and in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The two main characters are Vivian and  Molly.

The present-day story focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about to age out of the foster care system. The early years of the story concentrate on Vivian, as a young orphaned girl who traveled from NYC to Minnesota on one of the infamous “orphan trains” that were used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life.

The story is bleak at times, and captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, as well as the hard times for some of those in our system today who are tossed from place to place and used for labor and money.

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me.  I really enjoyed the part of the book that dealt with the young Vivian and her life on the Orphan Train.  As a result of reading this fictional account of this piece of history, I have looked into reading some of the true accounts of some of these orphan’s lives on that Orphan Train.

 

 

 

 

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

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I have never read a book like this before.  It was recommended to me by a friend, so I took it on vacation and finished it during the week I was away.  The narrator throughout is Budo, the imaginary friend of Max, an eight-year-old autistic boy who “imagined” Budo 5 years earlier.  Budo watches over Max, but being imaginary, cannot make his presence felt in the real world. This becomes a problem when Max is in real danger and Budo must find a way to help his friend.

The author has created a world of Imaginary Friends that is fascinating and well thought out, and his understanding of little boys like Max is also incredible.  Budo’s biggest fear is that he will fade away into nothingness as all imaginary friends eventually do when kids grow up and stop believing in them.  The bond between this special “imaginary” friend and the love he feels for the boy who created him makes this such a wonderful story.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

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Another book from the YA section of the library and it’s a really good one. The subject matter deals with the death of a teenager (not sure why I’ve gravitated toward these books lately), but I did not find it depressing at all. In fact, this is another book that I felt dealt with this subject in a very realistic way. All involved survivors are grief stricken, but there are moments of humor as well. Added to the mix are the feelings of the main characters as they navigate through high school and budding relationships . I enjoyed this book and will look for others by this author.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

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44 Scotland Street is the first in a series by Alexander McCall Smith by the same name. The story takes place in Edinburgh in a neighborhood with very colorful residents.  You will meet Pat, a young woman taking her gap year in Edinburgh; Bruce, who shares the flat with Pat; Domenica, an interesting widow in another flat; Bernie and his mother on the floor below. Bernie is only five and already learning Italian and how to play the saxophone.  Pat finds a job working for Matthew in an art gallery but knows little about art.

You’ll find yourself turning pages and deep into the story before you know it. McCall Smith has a talent for giving many details but not getting bogged down in them.  He’s very insightful and develops deep characters.

March by Geraldine Brooks

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Geraldine Brooks masterfully weaves a tale of life away from home for Mr. March after he leaves his “Little Women” to fend for themselves.  As the local young men are gathered together before leaving to join the fight to save the Union, Mr. March is asked to say a few words. As he speaks, he repeatedly uses the word “we.”  Looking up, he catches Marmee’s eye, and they both realize that he will be joining the boys.

In the course of the book, Mr. March returns to an area that he used to tour while selling goods door to door.  He serves as chaplain and then, after an indiscretion, he is reassigned to Oak Landing, an area where liberated slaves are supposed to be protected and offered wages as they toil to bring in the cotton crop.

This is an intriguing story that brings the reader fact to face with war, slavery, incest, and adultery.  What does Mr. March carry with him to remind him of his Little Women, who wait at home?  When he returns home, battered and ill, will Marmee still feel the same about him?  Will his LIttle Women?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Have you ever had a neighbor who always seemed so cranky that you avoided getting to know him/her?  It has probably happened to all of us at some time.  Well, Ove is that kind of neighbor: very rigid, grumpy and set in his ways.  It took an unexpected encounter between Ove and new neighbors to change his character, and in fact the entire neighborhood.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference this incident made for all those concerned.  It may even change the way you approach a similar situation in the future.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

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I just enjoy Alice Hoffman so much.  The way she can interweave characters and their stories is so enjoyable.  This book doesn’t disappoint.   It is a very quick read that refers to Albany and the Berkshires, and of course a little mysticism and magic.  I think you’ll like it,  and it may even lead you to Hoffman’s other works as well.