Expertly written by Wisconsin author Robert Noonan (who moved from Chicago, Illinois to Hatfield, Wisconsin to write his books), the 'Orphan Train Trilogy' is a set of three novels that, taken together or read separately, draw upon the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century phenomena of orphaned boys and girls from the eastern seaboard who were placed upon trains traveling west for exploitive foster home placements, menial factory jobs, and agricultural laborers.
"Wildflowers" (9780595426836, $15.95) is the story of 11-year old Hillary Cook and her widowed mother. The girl must work twelve hours a day, six days a week at the Alton Textile Mill operating dangerous machinery along with the other young girls, as well as suffer dark abuses at the hands mill owner Frank Dragus.
"Bridie's Daughter" (9780595436293, $15.95) follows the lives of four teen-aged children, including Catherine who ends up with Bridie McDonald in Newberry, Illinois. While some welcome the children, others hold them in dark suspicion thinking that all orphans brought in from New York City are cast off bastards and should be treated with contempt.
"Secrets" (9780595436286, $16.95) is the story of Hillary and her new parents who, after fleeing from their home following a bloody crime, find a new life in Galena, Illinois. The three titles comprising this superbly written trilogy showcase an obscure historical event in American history that began in 1854 and continued until 1929. The intent was to improve the lives of children in otherwise desperate circumstances in the cities of the east. The results were often more harrowing that anything the children had experienced prior to boarding those orphan trains headed west. Informed and informative, Robert Noonan is a master storyteller whose novels are as entertaining as they are thoughtful and thought-provoking.
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