I was completely and unexpectedly consumed by The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman! Every time I had the chance to read a few pages, I resented whatever caused me to put it down (sleep, work, etc.).
I didn't realize it's a 1918 Spanish Influenza story; it was compelling and unsettling to read during our current pandemic. The Orphan Collector combines the themes of As Bright As Heaven and The Girls With No Names but with darker and sadder intensity. This is not for all readers, especially now.
The plot focuses on Pia, a 12-year-old German girl who has immigrated to Philadelphia with her parents; four months ago twin brothers joined their family. Their loyalty to the US is constantly questioned so her father enlisted in the US military and was sent to fight in WWI and her mother takes the children to the fateful parade to celebrate the war's end.
Bernice Groves, a neighbor to Pia's family, also experiences devastating losses and is motivated by her grief and privilege to take unthinkable actions. I've never disliked a character so strongly! If Bernice were a person living today, I know who she'd vote for in the Presidential election.
Ms. Wiseman's thorough research and compelling writing fully immersed me in this world, and I was literally on the edge of my seat until I turned the final page.
The flu came to Philadelphia in September of 1918. That is where The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman begins. Within this context of history is the personal story of Pia Lange, a thirteen-year-old German immigrant. In this very historical novel, the author also introduces an element of magical realism. Ultimately, the historical setting of this book is timely, and the story is an the emotional personal conflict between Pia and Bernice and all that they each represent.
Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2020/03/the-orphan-collector.html
Reviewed for Bookish First.