Title: Together Forever
Author: Jody Hedlund
Series: Orphan Train #2
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
About the Book:
“Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.
Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children–firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.”
Imagine you are hired to board a train with 30 young orphans who have just lost their parents and then give them out to whatever families are willing to take them in. Imagine watching siblings ripped from each other as the families are only looking for a single child. Imagine a toddler clinging to you while being forced into the arms of more strangers. Although the orphan train started out with good intentions, it also came with a lot of heartache. There are several books out that share the heartache from the children’s perspectives, but rarely do you see one from the adults’. In Together Forever, Marianne and Drew are teamed up to take over 30 kids on a train to budding towns in the west in hopes of finding homes for them. Although many were orphans, some came into their care because their parents couldn’t support them or they were running from abusive homes. Either way, the heartache the children had suffered was immense, and their hope was for love.
Much like the author’s style between Elise and Thornton in the first book of the series, I enjoyed the witty humor between Marianne and Drew. I liked that the characters didn’t see each other, have instant attraction, and then have everything fueled by romance. The characters had fun with each other and the children, and it created an interesting dynamic that really made them come alive for me.
My heart broke for each of the children as they were handed off to the strangers who would become their parents. I actually shouted “NO!” at the book at one part, only able to relax once it was handled the way I was hoping. While this book is fiction, it was based on the untold stories of countless children and Aid Society workers who experienced the very real orphan trains that traveled for approximately 75 years. It is not to say that all stories ended badly. For one case in particular, Marianne struggled herself with the emotional attachment until she was able to see that the child she cared so deeply for was in the loving arms of a new mother who would truly love her for the rest of her life. Just as with many other events in history, there are both happy and sad stories to share.
I’m very glad that I started reading this series. My only regret is that I started before the whole series was published so that I now have to wait to continue. (According to Goodreads & Amazon the next book Searching for You is expected to be released in December of this year – 2018). This is the first series that I’ve read by Jody Hedlund, but I have quickly fallen in love with her writing style and plan to read more by her soon.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in hopes of an honest review. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.
Age Appropriateness: I believe this series is intended to interest teens and adults, but can be enjoyed by younger readers as well. It’s honestly a series much like what I enjoyed reading when I was 10-12 myself. This story is a romance, but there is nothing overly physical other than a few kisses. At one point there is a body recovered from a pond and how it happens is shared later.