Monday, March 29, 2021

You Belong Here Now - Dianna Rostad


You Belong Here Now
, Dianna Rostad’s debut novel, is a story about three children who ride the Orphan Train from New York to Montana in 1925 only to reach the end of the line still not having been chosen by anyone looking for children to bring into their homes. Stop after stop, they find themselves having to re-board the train hoping that it will go differently for them on the next train platform they come to. But Charles is too big, little Olive is too scrawny and refuses to talk, and Patrick just seems to be too Irish to suit the locals. 


The three have little in common other than their determination not to end up back in New York City, but when Charles and Patrick decide to jump off the slow-moving train together before it reaches its last stop in Montana, Olive refuses to be left behind. And now the three of them are on foot in what seems to them to be the middle of nowhere. That’s when Charles decides to steal a horse from the family ranch they finally come across, figuring that wherever they are going, riding is a whole lot easier than walking. 


This, though, is not just any family ranch. It is one in the process of dying right along with what’s left of the family that owns it. Nara, the spinster who runs the ranch along with her aging father now that her brother has made a new life for himself in New York, doesn’t think about the future much. She knows that her father is slowing down, but working from dawn to dusk - and beyond when necessary - is the only life she knows, and she can’t imagine anything else. After she catches Charles trying to steal one of her horses, she only reluctantly agree with her father to let the boy work off his crime on the ranch rather than turning him over to the sheriff. But  even after Nara’s mother falls in love with tiny Olive immediately upon setting eyes on her, Nara is determined to work the two boys so hard that they can’t wait to get away from the ranch for good.


You Belong Here Now covers a lot of ground. Some will call it a triple coming-of-age novel, but it is much more than that. It is also a novel about decades-old grudges with the power to destroy those who hold them, racial prejudice, the power of family ties, bonding, love, and bottom-line justice. It is the story of six people who learn just how much they mean to each other, and that real families do not necessarily share the same blood. And as Nara learns: 


“…justice doesn’t come about through rules of law, but rather it rises from the courage of just one person. Someone who yields to the better judgement of their heart. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a nobody, a somebody, or a big shot, so long as they have the temerity to put one finger on the scales.”


Sometimes, in order to achieve justice, laws simply have to be ignored.


Bottom Line: Historical fiction about the Orphan Trains is not uncommon these days, but it is a story that deserves to be told. It can be argued that many of the orphans sent  west from America’s big cities were abused and otherwise overworked and exploited by the people who took them in, but it can also be argued that many, hopefully the vast majority, of the children were given better lives than the ones they left behind. You Belong Here Now tells part of that story. The novel did leave me with the impression that it is as much a YA novel as one for adults, so I recommend it for anyone wanting to learn more about the period in general and about the Orphan Train in particular. 


Dianna Rostad

Review Copy provided by Publisher for Review - novel to be published on April 21, 2021

14 comments:

  1. It sounds like a good story. I've seen a few other books about the orphan train about in the past few years, but haven't had a chance to read one yet.

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    1. It's an episode from our history that I had barely heard of at all before the novels about it started coming out sometime in 2015. I guess that proves how valuable historical fiction can be. Before the novels, I knew of the Orphan Train mostly through a couple of great country/bluegrass/traditional songs about it.

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  2. There are a lot of Orphan Train stories out there but its good that perhaps the author is trying to target more of the YA readers as well. I've read a couple books on the topic, a sad but important topic.

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    1. I'm guessing that it was written with a YA audience in mind because of the style it's written in and the fact that some of the climax issues are resolved in a fairly predictable way.

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  3. There do seem to be a lot of orphan train stories out there, but it's a subject I always find intriguing. And this one sounds like one of the better ones.

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    1. I'm pretty sure that the first one I read was 2015's "Orphan Train." That one, as I recall, spent more time on the city aspects of the process than some of the others have.

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  4. It really sounds wonderful. Such a good post.

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    1. Thanks, Nan. I think this part of our past needs to be talked about. Something like this could never happen today, but considering what life on the streets was like for children even in those days, I can see the appeal of an approach like this one. I do, though, have to wonder how many children ended up worse off than before because of the impossibility of vetting and monitoring all the people who took in the children.

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  5. I'd never even heard of the Orphan Train let alone seen any books about it. I love the sound of this and would love to know more about the subject.

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    1. I think you would like this one, Cath. I also recommend Christine Baker Kline's 2015 novel "Orphan Train." It's about the bonding process between a 90-year-old woman who came to Minnesota as an orphan on the train and a teenager who is having problems with her foster care situation.

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  6. In 2009, I watched the Orphan Trains, an excellent documentary, and I was fascinated. It was on Netflix and had interviews with some of the survivors. The train continued from 1850-1929 -- hard to believe.

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    1. Wow, those dates really are hard to fathom...almost 75 years. I wonder (haven't seen the documentary you mention) if anyone has all the numbers compiled someplace. How many children were moved, negative experiences, etc.

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  7. I've been looking forward to this one, so I'm glad to hear that it's a solid novel. I liked the Kline book as well. The history of foster care and adoption is hard to read about, but so fascinating, especially since I'm an adoptive mom myself.

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    1. It's hard for me to believe still that so little vetting of prospective "parents" seems to have been done here, but times were different, and without the media being everywhere, no one was much watching. I'm not saying that this was a bad idea...but I wonder how much abuse of the children resulted.

      This one is good, if a little predictable toward the end.

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