Review of FORGETTING TABITHA by Julie Dewey

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to read and review FORGETTING TABITHA by Julie Dewey.  This was a rather gritty look at life for an orphan in NYC who goes on one of the “orphan trains” to a new life if rural New York in the 1860’s.

Here’s the overview:

Forgetting Tabitha by Julie Dewey
Publication Date: December 29, 2015
Holland Press

Raised on a farm, Tabitha Salt, the daughter of Irish immigrants, leads a bucolic and sheltered existence. When tragedy strikes the family, Tabitha and her mother are forced to move to the notorious Five Points District in New York City, known for its brothels, gangs, gambling halls, corrupt politicians and thieves.

As they struggle to survive in their new living conditions, tragedy strikes again. Young Tabitha resorts to life alone on the streets of New York, dreaming of a happier future.

The Sisters of Charity are taking orphans off the streets with promises of a new life. Children are to forget their pasts, their religious beliefs, families and names. They offer Tabitha a choice: stay in Five Points or board the orphan train and go West in search of a new life.

The harrowing journey and the decision to leave everything behind launches Tabitha on a path from which she can never return.

03_Julie Dewey

About the Author
Julie Dewey is a novelist who resides with her family in Central New York. Her daughter is a singer/songwriter, and her son is a boxer. Her husband is an all-around hard working, fantastic guy with gorgeous blue eyes that had her falling for him the moment they met.

In addition to researching and writing she is an avid reader. She is also passionate about jewelry design and gemstones. She loves anything creative, whether it be knitting, stamping, scrapping, decoupaging, working with metal, or decorating.

Visit her at to get your reading guide for this book and to read an excerpt from One Thousand Porches, her second novel. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.



02_Forgetting Tabitha

Okay — so here’s my take on things. The overview covers the beginning of the book and this was my favorite part of the story. I wanted little Tabitha to find a better life. I was horrified by the squalid conditions in which they had to live (which was very accurate for the time). I also have read a lot about the Orphan Trains, and felt that her experience on them (crying children, people wanting to adopt either little babies or older boys to work on their farms, etc.) was fairly typical.


Where I struggled with the story was at the midway point once Tabitha (now called Mary) was settled into her new life. New characters were introduced and sometimes these characters took over the narrative. There were several points of view portrayed, which was made less confusing by the fact that the chapter titles were the character’s names. However, and this is just for me as a reader, while I would call the first part of the book “gritty”, there were several scenes in the second half of the book that were violent and also portrayed sexual violence (which is not my bailiwick). These included a 13 year old prostitute being brutally raped. I found those scenes disturbing (especially since I wasn’t expecting it, I was still thinking “orphan trains! chance at a new and better life!”); but to be fair, if you read me regularly, you know that I am a “cozy mystery” type of person rather than a “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” type, so this just isn’t my thing.

I did like the ending and I really liked the plucky and resilient character of Tabitha/Mary. I thought it was interesting how much she changed, and yet how much she stayed the same throughout the book.

If you’d like to read and see more about the orphan trains in real life, check out the wonderful PBS special about them. More info here:

Thank you for my review e-copy!

Review: ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline

During a recent one day sale on Amazon, I bought ORPHAN TRAIN for only a few dollars for my Kindle. I have read other books about the real orphan trains: trains full of NYC street urchins that brought them to the Midwest for “adoption” and a new life in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

In ORPHAN TRAIN, the story flips between current day foster kid, Molly, who is doing community service at an elderly woman’s house, and the Irish immigrant girl Niamh, whose family perishes in a fire in the late 1920’s. Molly is part Native American and while not an orphan (her mother is alive), she is in the foster care system and has moved about many times. She is almost eighteen and hopes to stay out of trouble until then. Unfortunately, she chooses to steal a copy of “Jane Eyre” from the library and has to do community service to make up for her theft. The elderly woman she works for (they are cleaning her attic) is named Vivian. She is a wealthy widow and she tells Molly the stories behind the items in her attic. Vivian is really Niamh, though – a young Irish girl who leaves NYC after her family supposedly all dies in a tenement fire. Niamh’s tenacity to survive and her integrity to be the best she can be given her circumstances is mirrored in modern day Molly. Over time the two stories connect and we see how each character has become who she is at the end.

I loved reading this story. I always find historical fiction interesting, and Niamh’s story held my attention. My only dislike in the book was the character of Molly’s foster mother, whom I found to be almost a caricature.  Also the ending wrapped up quickly and neatly – I would have loved to follow Niamh’s earlier life a bit longer.

In all, I’d recommend it if you like to read about this period in history.

Never heard of the orphan trains? Check out the PBS documentary (or see the references on their page) at