The Children’s Train by Viola Ardone contains a beautiful story of a thoughtful son who is torn between love for a mother he doesn’t understand completely and an adopted family who wants only the best for him.
Amerigo’s mother is persuaded it would be best to send him to northern Italy in 1946 to escape the poverty and harsh conditions in southern Italy after WWII. Seven year old Amerigo leaves on a train with other children to be welcomed into homes of families desiring to create a better life for these children either on a temporary basis or permanently. After some initial problems, Amerigo not only adjusts, but flourishes in his life with the family in northern Italy who provide love and a good home for him both physically and emotionally. Not to divulge too much of the story, but something happens on a return trip to visit his mother Antonietta which causes hard feelings and estrangement between Amerigo and his mother. As an adult Amerigo feels guilt and regret concerning events which happened between him and his mother and searches for understanding.
The author writes wonderfully in the voice of a child in the first part of the book. It’s easy to imagine a child with words and actions such as Amerigo’s and easy to connect with this young boy as he faces tough situations and decisions in his life.
The last part of the book takes place in 1994 when Amerigo goes back to his childhood home seeking answers to questions and trying to reconcile things in his mind with his mother, no longer having the ability to talk to her in person. This was a rather poignant part in the book.
I’ve read many books with settings encompassing the years before, during, and right after WWII. This one was different for me in that it gave a picture of what life was like for the Italian people after the war. I appreciate getting a copy of the book from BookishFirst and HarperVia, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.