Bethany House bloggers program gave me a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.
With You Always, by Jody Hedlund, came in the mail just as we were heading out of town for our road trip! Over the next few days, I quickly raced through the pages, immersed in the world of a young immigrant girl, Elise, who has to earn a living in order to provide for herself, her sisters, and some other orphans they "adopt" into their family. This was a different Orphan Train saga than I expected. When I saw that the series was entitled Orphan Train, I expected another saga of young children. I didn't realize that Children's Rescue Mission sent more than just young orphans west. They also sent women out west to help form new towns. These women worked as seamstresses, laundresses, cooks, cleaners. It was a chance for a life outside of poverty, a chance to hold down a respectable job, so that they wouldn't be pulled into jobs of ill-repute. It was a chance to send money back home and hopefully bring relatives out of the desperate poverty of the big city.
Elise finds herself in such a place. She is struggling to survive as a seamstress in New York City, when The Great Panic of 1857 occurs, leaving her and many other women without jobs. It's heartbreaking for her to leave her young siblings behind, but she knows that this chance to ride the train west could mean something good. And so, she goes, and it's not easy. The work is still backbreaking, but the hope is always there.
The romance part of this story is a little weak for me. I don't want to say too much, in the worry that I'll give too much away, so I'll just leave it as this: for me, some of the dialogue, the way the characters act toward each other, just isn't realistic. I admit, I rolled my eyes a bit.
But outside of the romance, the story itself is a great one. It's definitely a series I want to come back to again. This book ended with some unanswered questions. I would love to tune in again, and find out what happens next to Elise's family. If she finds her other siblings and is able to take them west with her, and what other, new sides of the orphan train we'll learn about in future books.
Happy Summer Reading!