Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Trilogy From Robert Noonan

I wanted to share all three reviews for this trilogy at once. Although the last book won't be out for a few months, I believe that each reader will want to acquire all three of these great Americana books for their home library!  Family oriented...they are really Wonderful!

Wildflowers: First in A Trilogy
By Robert Noonan

Wildflowers by Robert Noonan is a novel I have come to love.  It is the first book in a historical trilogy and carries an underlying story about the “orphan trains” that moved across the country from 1854 to 1929. Reverend Charles Loring Brace was shocked in 1850 when he learned of and saw 10,000 homeless children prowling the streets of New York City. He founded a Society through which many of these desperate children were sent west to begin new lives.  
In a small mill town there are no laughing children playing and running.  Those that are of the right age are already called upon to work to help support their families.  Many of them work at Alton Mill, where they stand for long hours at machines that can maim, to create the different garments that are on order at any given time.  
Noonan begins his story on Friday, September 16, 1898, as Hillary Cook, whose story will flow through all three books, walked to work at Alton Mill.  She is eleven years old. Her mother is widowed and both must work to have food and shelter.  Kate Moran, best friend of her mother and one of the friendly faces at the mill, smiled as Hillary hurried to her workstation.  Work began at six a.m.  Kate had come to love Hillary as her own and, indeed, had already promised her mother, Laura, that she would take Hillary as her child if something should happen to her mother. The mill was open for long hours Monday through Saturday and there was school on Sunday afternoons, so the only time for play and just being children was very short and much valued.  Hillary and her girlfriends would roam the countryside, searching for flowers, seeking places to play pretend, to be just a little bit silly or to try some new brave adventure…and that is how they came to call themselves the Wildflowers.  For those few precious hours, they were able to run wild and feel the joy and freedom of being just what they were--children. Often, they would run and watch and wave at the children going by on an orphan train.  They prayed they would never have to be loaded and shipped away like they had seen happen to one of the little girls at the Mill. 
But just as in the fairy tales of our youth, here too lived a wolf, who watched all of the flowers, the children he saw every day but who played in the woods so rarely.  He was the owner of Alton Mill.  Whenever he chose, he picked a young girl from behind the large machines and had them sent to his office.  They were there for whatever he pleased, and he took the most precious thing they owned. Even now, though she was only eleven, he watched and waited for the young, pretty Hillary.  
And then in the midst of their daily lives, a stranger came to town.  But he wasn’t a stranger to Kate Moran’s fiancĂ©, John, who had secretly been hiding because he had once been falsely accused of killing a man.  The stranger was the dead man’s brother! John was forced to once again run since there was no hope of proving his innocence.  But John was now financially able to relocate west and find the place where he and Kate would later settle. So they planned and looked forward to that time. 
And then Hillary’s secret fear came true. Her mother became gravely ill.  Hillary stayed by her side day and night but she was getting no better.  And that was the time that Frank Dragus, her boss, moved to take his advantage.  In exchange for financial support for food, lodging and doctors, he bargained for what he wanted from Hillary. Hillary gave her all but there was no cure for her mother’s illness.  She became the orphan, as she had always feared.  In Kate’s arms, though, she found that she would not be alone, that she would be leaving town with her.  And Kate had already made her first maternal commitment as she repaid Dragus for what he had forced upon Hillary. 
Noonan’s has placed us back into the late 1890’s with a tale that is well written and historically significant. When I received the manuscript for review, I was told by the author, “Follow the Children.”  Indeed, you not only will follow them, but you will become involved and concerned about their lives.  Robert Noonan, as a first-time author, has presented us with a gift. We may not enjoy reading about some of the challenges they faced, but it is important that we learn of them. We should also be reminded that there are always good people who move in to assist and love those in need. 
Look for this must-read as a keeper for your historical fiction library! 
Bridie’s Daughter: Second in A Trilogy
Robert Noonan’s second book in his trilogy has just been released!  Bridie’s Daughter follows Wildflowers and if you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend it to you. These books are a taste of Americana that you don’t want to miss! 
The “orphan trains” moved across the country from 1854 to 1929. Reverend Charles Loring Brace was shocked in 1850 when he learned of and saw 10,000 homeless children prowling the streets of New York City. He founded a Society through which many of these desperate children were sent west to begin new lives.  
And so another trip was planned; the orphan train would carry 37 children under the age of 15. They were optimistic that all of the children might find homes this time since other trips had carried as many as 150 orphans.  The children came from many different places but they were able to meet and make new friends during the train trip. They would ride two days to their first destination in Illinois. Two of the older children were immediately attracted to each other; Catherine and Brian easily found a way to meet and shared many hours together during their trip.  Monica and Jason were their respective friends and they all speculated about what kind of homes they might find.  Brian and Jason had been living on the streets, but Brian shared that he had dreams of becoming an engineer if he ever had a chance to go to school.  In each seat on the train, whispers and dreams and fears were shared as children turned to others who could share their feelings. 
Bridie McDonald was already waiting at the Newberry, Illinois train station as it rolled in.  Her dear friends, Margaret and Tom Holmgren, who were hoping to find a boy to call their son, soon joined her.  Bridie wanted a daughter and she would know her when she saw her.  Indeed, that is exactly what happened and she moved quickly toward the young girl, Catherine, who was already deep in conversation with a couple.  Deciding it was only fair to let the young girl choose, the couple and then Bridie quickly shared with Catherine why they would like to have her come lives with them.  But Birdie had inside information—she had noticed the apparent relationship between Catherine and Brian and quickly highlighted that her good friends had asked Brian to come to live with them and that they lived only two streets away. How could Catherine fail to choose Bridie as she stood there with twinkling eyes? 
The heartwarming stories of these new families will pull readers into each life—those of the children and those of the new parents.  However, there in Newberry, one of the orphans, Monica, Catherine’s friend, did not find the happiness found by others.  Her story is one that also occasionally happened to those riding the trains. She was finally forced to leave the family that had adopted her, but she was smart enough and brave enough to find another life for herself; her story just might be the most gripping tale you’ll read!  You’ll also meet Pina, a young girl who had worked in the Alton Mill and had been a friend of Hillary in Wildflowers.  Finally, you’ll also find out what has happened to Hillary during the last year! 
The orphans’ saga leading to new lives with new families is one that you will always remember.  I’ve found the stories very similar to the series “Little House on the Prairie,” based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder that were set in the 1870-80s.  So if you’ve enjoyed this family-oriented program centered on the Ingalls children or Wilder’s books, you will indeed agree with me that Noonan’s Trilogy is a Must-Read!   

Secrets: Third of A Trilogy

You won’t want to miss the final book in the orphan train trilogy by Robert Noonan! 
Haunted by the Secrets of their past, Kate, John and Hillary Hanley had joined together as a family and established their home in Newberry, Illinois.  Each of them had secrets from their past that continued to plague them even as their happiness and love grew each day. 
For John who had been accused of a murder he did not commit, he knew the law could arrest him because the victim’s brother was a wealthy influential man. The real murderer had manufactured evidence against him, but revenge could be satisfied whether guilt was real.  John had left Alton, Delaware, to move west and hopefully outrun his accusers. Kate loved him and would follow him anywhere to be his bride.
But Kate had a secret, known only to her, that also caused her to leave Alton.  Having her own revenge against her former boss, who had caused so much pain to her beloved Hillary, she had found Frank Dragus guilty and punishable by death. Would they some day come for her as well as John? 
Hillary had a secret as well. 
These Secrets carried into the final book in Noonan’s trilogy are woven into the lives of other orphans that rode the trains to the west.  And the trains also carried the families for visits from one home to another.  Bridie’s daughter becomes a close friend to Hillary, but Bridie has also found a reason to visit the homestead because Biff, Hillary’s adopted Uncle had caught Birdie’s attention.  But before she could ever consider entering into a loving relationship, she was forced to deal with the secret from her past—and He was there at her home every day to remind her!! 
There is just enough drama and suspense to move this heartwarming story forward. Noonan takes the time to “create” the period into which we may fall, enjoying fairs, home-made cider, dressing up as squaws to get pictures taken . . .
By now, each of Noonan’s characters had become familiar and I wanted to be sure that all would be well with each of them.  Thankfully, that did happen! I’ve likened The Orphan Train Trilogy to the television series and books, Little House on the Prairie.  I think you will agree.  Robert Noonan wanted to bring out a long-forgotten part of our heritage and he has indeed handled that responsibility well. His books are meticulously presented; his writing sensitive and understanding as he shares the plight of the children who were orphaned, oftentimes by tragedy or pain.   
Many of you may realize that Robert Noonan came to our site for a review of his books.  He and I later worked to proofread, edit and finalize the books prior to publishing.  I was honored to have this little part in bringing these Americana stories to readers. My only wish?  That the trilogy had really had one more book--Hillary, so we would know that Hillary had indeed had a wonderful life and had successfully dealt with her own tragic secret.  How about it Mr. Noonan?  I’ve added it to my “wish list” at all the online bookstores! Will I get my wish?  Hillary is a must-must read for me because I consider the first three books as Must-Reads! 

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