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
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.
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 http://www.juliedewey.com 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.
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.
SPOILER ALERT — SPOILERS AHEAD!
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: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/orphan/
Thank you for my review e-copy!