Amazing tale!

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With no food at home for her baby brothers and no one else to go out and get it, in 1918, with the Spanish flu claiming lives in droves in Philadelphia, thirteen year old German immigrant Pia Lange makes a desperate decision: She leaves her brothers home alone so she can go find food. Bernice Groves sees her leave and makes a decision of her own, one that will lead to a longterm quest to turn immigrant children into “true Americans” by ripping them away from their families.

This is a heartbreaking and immersive piece of fiction. I struggle to get into most historical fiction that doesn’t include mystery or horror, but I did not find this one difficult to stay engaged with at all.

Pia is a character who is easy to love and root for while, on the other side of things, Bernice is quite easy to loathe. It saddens me to think that there were and are people who think the kind of thoughts attributed to Bernice, although most don’t go to the lengths she did. The story does demonstrate how damaging prejudiced hatred for others can be and how easily one can convince herself that she is doing good, no matter who it hurts..

The historical details surrounding the country’s response to the Spanish flu were very intriguing, especially given current circumstances. There were similar responses (face coverings, closed businesses, etc.) back in 1918 to prevent further spread of the deadly illness. I hadn’t really considered how previous pandemics had been handled until reading this book.

I have two other books by Wiseman that I’ve yet to read and it’s clear I’ll need to get to them sooner than later. She knows how to pull her reader in completely and make them feel for the protagonist’s plight.

If you like historical fiction, read The Orphan Collector. Even if you don’t like the genre, this may be your exception, as it is a special story that remains interesting all the way through.