Orphan Collector
by Wiseman, Ellen Marie

"In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia's overcrowded streets and slums, and from the anti-German sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army, hoping to prove his loyalty. But an even more urgent threat has arrived. Spanish influenza is spreading through the city. Soon, dead and dying are everywhere. With no food at home, Pia must venture out in search of supplies, leaving her infant twin brothers alone... Since her baby dieddays ago, Bernice Groves has been lost in grief and bitterness. If doctors hadn't been so busy tending to hordes of immigrants, perhaps they could have saved her son. When Bernice sees Pia leaving her tenement across the way, she is buoyed by a shocking,life-altering decision that leads her on a sinister mission: to transform the city's orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are "true Americans." As Pia navigates the city's somber neighborhoods, she cannot know that her brothers won't be home when she returns. And it will be a long and arduous journey to learn what happened, even as Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost. Only with persistence, and the courage to face her own shame and fear, will Pia put the pieces together and find the strength to risk everything to see justice at last."-

Ellen Marie Wiseman is the New York Times bestselling author of highly acclaimed historical fiction novels The Orphan Collector, What She Left Behind, The Plum Tree, Coal River and The Life She Was Given, which was a Great Group Reads selection of the Women's National Book Association and National Reading Group Month. Born and raised in Three Mile Bay, a tiny hamlet in Northern New York, she's a first-generation German American who discovered her love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in New York State. Since then, her novels have been translated into eighteen languages and published worldwide. A mother of two, Ellen lives on the shores of Lake Ontario with her husband and dogs. She can be found online at: EllenMarieWiseman.com

Thousands crowd the streets for Philadelphia's Liberty Loan parade in the fall of 1918. Thirteen-year-old Pia Lange is there reluctantly because her mother, conscious of the anti-German sentiments of their neighbors, insists that Pia and her brothers attend. Never a fan of crowds, Pia is even more nervous because of the deadly flu epidemic that is sweeping the nation. When the disease hits Philadelphia, thousands die. Bernice Groves, who lives across the way from the Langes, blames immigrants like Pia for the epidemic. Because of her losses-she has just lost her infant son to the flu and her husband in the war-and her bigotry, Bernice makes a choice that has devastating consequences for Pia. Wiseman (The Life She Was Given, 2017) weaves their two paths in and around each other, showing the catastrophic impact of the flu. Readers will not be able to help making comparisons to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how little has changed since 1918. Wiseman has written a touching tale of loss, survival, and perseverance with some light fantastical elements. Highly recommended for all collections. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

A young woman endures incredible loss and tragedy, then fights to find her missing siblings and bring a criminal to justice against the backdrop of the Spanish flu epidemic. September 1918: The war is finally coming to an end. One day, crowds gather at a victory parade in Philadelphia, and soon after, people are dying by the hundreds from the Spanish flu. The danger is particularly high in the overcrowded slums where 13-year-old Pia Lange lives with her German mother and baby brothers as her father fights for the U.S. Army. When her mother dies, Pia must leave the apartment to find food, and she makes the difficult choice to hide her brothers away to keep them safe until her return. Foraging from apartment to apartment in the impoverished, immigrant-populated neighborhood, Pia faints from illness only to wake up several days later in a church hospital ward. Meanwhile, neighbor Bernice Groves finds Pia's brothers crying in their hiding place and chooses to take them with her. Bernice, driven to the brink of suicide by the recent death of her infant son, is distrustful and resentful of the immigrants who have moved into the neighborhood. At the sam e time, Pia is taken to an orphanage, at which point things become very Dickensian. Determined to escape and find her brothers if they are still alive, Pia fights to survive as Bernice embarks on a lucrative business of selling orphaned babies to families who have lost children. Wiseman's novel raises relevant issues about what it means to be an American and about the forms that anti-American sentiment can take in times of crisis; the setting during a pandemic, however, one can assume was less intentional. Reading the novel in the time of COVID-19 adds an even greater resonance, and horror, to the description of the fatal spread of that 1918 flu. The pathos inspired by the sheer scale and indiscriminate nature of pandemic death is almost overwhelming, especially given current events. A coming-of-age story that hits a bit closer to home than Wiseman may have intended. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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