Reviewer Sharlet Liebel © 2009
The suspenseful and entertaining Bridie’s Daughter is Robert Noonan’s second book in the series, the Orphan Train Trilogy. Readers will recognize characters introduced in his first book called Wildflowers who create mysterious connections to new events with intriguing new adults and children. Their past circumstances return to haunt readers as they recognize signals of previous dangerous encounters. However, even without such knowledge, the author prepares an explanation with background. This book is explosive.
Noonan’s stories are reminiscent of American Literature by John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath – 1939, Irving Stone The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Novel of Michelangelo – 1961, and Edith Wharton The House of Mirth – 2002. The Orphan Train Trilogy was inspired by an amazing saga of 200,000 orphaned American children during the years 1854 to 1929. Robert Noonan’s historical novels touch a mere portion of these lives.
Children of all ages awaken with anticipation in the early hours as the day arrives when they will board the Orphan Train. The orphans hope the journey from New York City to Western states leads to their adoption.
At six-thirty on June 8, 1899, following breakfast, the boys and girls dress and pack their meager belongings at the dormitory. They are well mannered and supportive of one another. A young girl worries lest she not find loving parents while a child of ten comforts and reassures the three year old. There are few teenagers but Catherine Hayes and Brian Hampton are among the 20 boys and 17 girls from the orphanage.
During the train ride, Brian and Catherine become friends with Monica and Jason. Brian and Jason have each lived on the streets of New York and discuss details of their personal survival there. Catherine and Monica share their attraction toward the young boys and other personal data. Early on, readers champion the hopes of these beloved children.
Adoptive parents, too, have agendas for needing or wanting children in their households. Tender hearted parents of their small town where Catherine and Brian are adopted form family alliances. The losses of a child’s parents are features of their adaptations to adoptive parents throughout the unfolding stories that play heavily on people’s hearts in these tales. They tenderize even the most resolute reader.
Significant historical American Indian lore adds charm and links to future relational incidents because of a visit to the County Fair. One child chances to meet with a former friend at The Fair and the result is that several children become friends. Friendships and travel become the new adventure of their lives as bonds deepen. Children and adoptive parents become increasingly attached and share chaperon functions as train travel increases from one or another town.
Secrets of the past, child and adult courtships, involved confidences, and provocative encounters due to secret communications, all tend to complicate lives. Chaotic conflicts are artfully weaved by storyteller Robert Noonan so as to cause anxiety to his captive audiences.