09 March 2015

Reading on Topic: Seven Orphaned Novels

Am I the only one who has noticed the publishing industry's interest in orphans? Over the last couple of years there's been an upswing in books with the word orphan in the title and in books that feature orphans as the main characters. I'm not sure what this means, but it's a trend that caught my attention.

Today's Reading On Topic covers seven books I've shelved under the general category of orphans. They range from creepy to thoughtful to light-hearted, so I'm sure there's a title that's just right for you. They all look great to me.

A Little Bit Scary

Sophie Hannah, The Orphan ChoirSophie Hannah, The Orphan Choir (Picador; ISBN: 9781250063755; 2015) Life in the city becomes unbearable for Louise Beeston after her young son leaves for boarding school and joins a famous boys' choir. It's not only that she misses her son but that she can no longer bear the noise of her neighbor's music and of the workmen who are sandblasting her house. After talking her husband into relocating to the country, Louise is distressed to discover she cannot outrun the ghostly choir that, apparently, only she can hear. As she begins a downward spiral, Louise tries to uncover the secret meanings behind the music. Recommendation: Perfectly spooky for readers who love psychological suspense.

Catherine Jinx How to Catch a BogleCatherine Jinx How to Catch a Bogle (Harcourt Children's; ISBN: 9780544087088; 2013) Ten-year-old Birdie loves her job with Alfred the Bogle catcher, especially because she knows how bad it can be for an orphan in Victorian London. Birdie and Alfred's services are required whenever a village child goes missing. But when the number of disappearances gets out of hand, the pair relies on friends to help them figure out what is happening. Quirky characters, plenty of action, and a surprising dilemma for Birdie perk up this fun start to a promising middle grade trilogy. Recommendation: Perfect for anyone who likes a engaging mix of mystery, fantasy, and folklore seasoned with a little creep factor. Don't miss the book trailer.

Friends and Family

Christina Baker Kline, Orphan TrainChristina Baker Kline, Orphan Train (William Morrow; ISBN: 9780061950728, 2013) In modern times, Molly, a troubled Native American teen, meets ninety-something Vivian when fulfilling a community service obligation. Eventually bonding over their shared orphan status, Vivian opens up to Molly about her experiences after being sent to the Midwest on a orphan train in the 1920s. Alternating between early-twentieth-century Minnesota and contemporary Maine, Kline takes readers on an emotional journey of survival, forgiveness, and self-acceptance. Recommendation: For readers who like stories of overcoming hardship, female friendships, and historical fiction. Based on a real policy for placing orphans in family homes.

Patry Francis, The Orphans of Race PointPatry Francis, The Orphans of Race Point (Harper Perennial; ISBN: 9780061950728; 2014) From a childhood friendship that was forged over a tragedy, Gus and Hallie's feelings blossom into love, only to be shattered around the time they graduate high school. Decades later, Gus finds himself once again caught up in violence, and Hallie is drawn back into his life, hoping to prove his innocence and recapture the closeness they once felt. This emotionally deep saga follows the two motherless children over almost thirty years and explores family, friendship, domestic violence, parenthood, and redemption. Recommendation: For readers looking for a heartfelt story of friendship, love, and loyalty.

Cathleen Schine, Fin & LadyCathleen Schine, Fin & Lady (Sarah Crichton; ISBN: 9780374154905, 2013) When eleven-year-old Fin is orphaned, he is uprooted from his mother's dairy farm to live with his much older, flighty half-sister, Lady, in Greenwich Village. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s, practical Fin and the free-spirited Lady must learn to negotiate life both on their own terms and as a team. Schine brilliantly captures the inner thoughts of the young boy, from his initial adaptation to city life to his maturing reactions to Lady's sometimes questionable choices. Recommendation: For fans of family stories, coming-of-age tales, and the sociopolitical atmosphere of the 1960s.

Maybe Not So Orphaned

Jamie Ford, Songs of Willow FrostJamie Ford, Songs of Willow Frost (Ballantine; ISBN: 9780345522023; 2013) Twelve-year-old William Eng has been at a Seattle orphanage for almost half his life, but after a rare trip to the movie theater he is convinced that the star of the film is really is presumed-dead mother. Accompanied by a friend, the boy scours the city in an attempt to discover the true story of the actress Willow Frost. More than a tale of a young orphan searching for family, this novel explores Depression Era economic hardships, the plight of Chinese-American women in the 1920s, family, religion, and friendship. Recommendation: For readers who love historical fiction, family stories, and emotional journeys.

Paulette Jiles, Lighthouse IslandPaulette Jiles, Lighthouse Island (William Morrow; ISBN: 9780062232502; 2013) We all know the future of the world looks dark, but for orphans like Nadia, life is particularly hard. Remembering her parents' parting words before they abandoned her years ago, Nadia is convinced there is a haven from the overcrowded, drought-ridden existence that passes for normal. When she sees a chance to escape government control, she leaves the city for the uncharted wilderness to chase her dreams and find her parents. Nadia's journey is fraught with danger as well as unexpected alliances. But can reality ever match our expectations? Recommendation: This tale of desperate hope is perfect for lovers of adult dystopian fiction.

Which one would you read first?


Kelly Simmons 3/9/15, 7:17 AM  

Wives, Girls, now Orphans! You are so observant!

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/9/15, 7:43 AM  

I love this collection and Orphans of Race Point was one of my favorite books last year.

Sarah's Book Shelves 3/9/15, 7:52 AM  

My friends from high school read Orphan Train in their book club and loved it. I'm hoping to get to it at some point!

Karen White 3/9/15, 8:44 AM  

Songs of Willow Frost looks good to me - I love historical fiction. I also have loved Paulette Jiles writing in the past so that will be on my list, too.

Bonnie @ A Backwards Story 3/9/15, 8:50 AM  

And, of course, THE ORPHAN QUEEN, out tomorrow!

I think it's just an industry thnig b/c it makes it easier to flush out backstory. Think of how many Disney movies have a dead parent or two!

Beth F 3/9/15, 8:57 AM  

@Bonnie -- oh shoot I forgot about that one because I don't yet have a copy. That will go in my orphan round-up. :)

bermudaonion 3/9/15, 9:05 AM  

I have several of those and haven't read a single one but, then, I'm always behind.

rhapsodyinbooks 3/9/15, 10:15 AM  

Yes, orphans everywhere! Now all we need are orphan twins who are somewhere on the autism scale and we will have a trend trifecta!

Katherine P 3/9/15, 10:36 AM  

I hadn't thought about it but we are seeing a lot of orphans these days in fiction. Orphan Train is on my TBR and the Sophie Hannah sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

Daryl 3/9/15, 11:23 AM  

i really enjoyed Fin and Lady .. before that the only orphan books i read were the Boxcar Children .. did you ever read them?

Unknown 3/9/15, 11:33 AM  

Wow; what a great list! I would probably pick up Orphan Train first, because I've really meant to read that one and I just haven't gotten around to it. I've heard lots of wonderful things, though! Thanks so much and I hope your Monday is off to a great start.

Shaina 3/9/15, 1:21 PM  

Like others here, I think I'd go for Orphan Train first! I want to make an effort to read more books centered around female friendships.

Becca 3/9/15, 5:44 PM  

I'm reading Lost & Found by Brooke Davis and it's about a girl who was abandoned in a dept. store by her mother after her father's death, so it's an orphan story, too. Maybe there is a trend!

Laurie C 3/9/15, 6:29 PM  

There's also The Light Between Oceans... I loved The Orphans of Race Point and think everyone should definitely read that one first! I've got Fin & Lady on my TBR list.

Sue Jackson 3/9/15, 7:06 PM  

LOVE the themed post - great idea! My husband always complains that kid/teen books all feature orphans or at the very least, absent parents!

I've had Orphan Train on my Kindle for over a year and still haven't gotten to it. Now my book group has picked it so hopefully I will finally read it!

I also want to read The Songs of Willow Frost because I loved Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Saw Jamie Ford once - he was sooo entertaining!


Book By Book

Tif Sweeney 3/12/15, 2:14 PM  

I just finished listening to Songs of Willow Frost. Sooooo good!

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