Hazel Renner was raised by German-American parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When she came of age, she learned that her parents were not her true birth parents, that her early memories of a grand house with servants and fancy dinners is actually a memory from her childhood, and not a lingering dream. She leaves the home of her adoptive parents to be a teacher in a rural town called Galway and she hopes to find her own identity. Strange events ensue that will haunt her for a lifetime. Stunned by tragedy and injustice, she tries to trace her roots back to her mother, hoping to break the cycle that her birth mother started, causing destruction in her wake and possibly passing it to her daughter.
Her past leads her to a castle owned by a German Baron, a gardener who may be the love of her life, and a discovery of what she really wants in life…But with World War I in effect, she stands to lose everything and everyone dear to her.
Under the Same Sky, by Pamela Schoenewaldt, is a novel with a touch of magic, a lot of heart, and the deep emotion associated with loss and love. Readers may remember a previous novel by Pamela Schoenewaldt, Swimming in the Moon, which I covered when it first came out. Pamela Shoenewaldt has a gift for the deepest uncertainty which comes with blind love for someone, or many “someones” in your life-and the possibility that they are broken, damaged, or capable of harming themselves or others.
Vivian Daly was 8 years old when she woke to a house fire and was put into the custody of an organization that distributed orphans to foster families out in the country. She rode a train full of other children like herself, some gathered up from the streets and gutters. She is placed into a family, but quickly finds out that she is not intended to be a child, but to work for them without pay except room and board…When the depression hits, things unravel quickly, and she finds herself bouncing from home to home, trying to find her place in the world and survive as best she can, only her able body and her wits on her side.
Molly Ayer is a 17-year-old girl who has been in “the system” for many years. She has bounced from foster situation to foster situation, and she has learned that she has no one to count on but herself. She dyes her hair, gets piercings, wears gothic makeup…Whatever it takes to get people to just leave her alone. When she is sentenced to 50 hours of community service and placed in the home of an elderly woman named Vivian, she knows the whole thing is going to be a big snooze fest…But she finds that she and this old woman are not so different from one another. And an unlikely bond forms between these two strong women.
Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline, is a novel about the parallels and patterns in life that travel from generation to generation, the darkest sides of humanity, the people who stand up for others and the people who only care about themselves, and the pain of real life and hardship. This novel is not warm and fuzzy, although the end is very uplifting. More sensitive readers will want Kleenex nearby, as the flaws in the foster system of both generations are unearthed and exposed mercilessly. This novel is beautiful and intense, and I couldn’t put it down. Great story. Period.