Book Review: The Orphan Collector – A Tale of Survival Amidst the 1918 Influenza Pandemic’s Heroism

Get ready to experience a rollercoaster of emotions with Ellen Marie Wiseman’s latest novel, The Orphan Collector. This haunting and powerful tale of resilience and hope is set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak, a deadly pandemic that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population. Wiseman’s ability to transport readers to another time and place is simply awe-inspiring. From the overcrowded slums of Philadelphia to the St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum, we follow the journey of Pia Lange, a thirteen-year-old German immigrant, as she fights to survive and protect her loved ones.

As the city celebrates the end of World War I, the Spanish Flu wreaks havoc, leaving funeral crepe and quarantine signs on doors as victims drop dead in the streets. Pia, desperate for more supplies, embarks on a dangerous journey, leaving her younger brothers behind. Meanwhile, Bernice Groves, a grieving mother who lost her baby to the Spanish Flu, becomes filled with bitterness and makes a life-altering decision to tear families apart. She plans to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.” From that point on, Pia and Bernice’s stories become intertwined.

One of the most remarkable elements of Wiseman’s writing is her ability to make readers feel as though they are right there, in the midst of the pandemic. Her descriptions of life during the Spanish Flu epidemic are both chilling and captivating. It’s almost as though she has traveled back in time to bring the story to life. Reading this novel in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic also adds a greater resonance and horror to the description of the fatal spread of the 1918 flu. Readers will most definitely not be able to help making comparisons to the current situation and how little has changed since 1918.

The Orphan Collector is an emotional tug-of-war played out brilliantly on the pages and in readers’ hearts. Throughout the novel, we feel Pia’s strength, courage, guilt, and grief. Her journey is not an easy one, but her incredible resilience keeps her going. The novel is also filled with light fantastical elements that draw readers in and keep them entertained.

Wiseman’s depiction of the horrifying spread of the Spanish Flu is eerily reminiscent of the current pandemic and resonates with realistic depictions of suffering, particularly among the poorer immigrant population. She brings to life the struggles that people faced during a time when medical knowledge was limited, and the pandemic was running rampant. It’s truly inspiring to read about characters like Pia who fought to survive and protect their loved ones amidst such chaos and heartache.

Overall, The Orphan Collector is a beautifully told and richly imagined tale of loss, survival, and perseverance. It’s a story of love, hope, and the lengths we will go to protect those that need us most. Wiseman’s writing is superb, and her well-researched novel is impossible to put down. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, heartwarming stories, and emotionally charged novels. Beatriz Williams and Kristin Hannah fans will definitely want to add this one to their reading list.
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Price: $8.99
(as of Mar 27, 2023 04:20:49 UTC – Details)

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