HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Orphan Train West Collection
Author: Jane Peart
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Co., republished in 1991
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Peart, Jane. Orphan Train West Collection (published in 1990 by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House Company, P. O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516). In the spring of 1890, three eight-year-old girls leave the Greystone Orphanage in Boston, MA, and head west on the “Orphan Train.” Exuberant Zephronia Victorine Todd (Toddy) is left in the orphanage by her actress mother. Dainty and beautiful Laurel Vestal is placed at Greystone when her loving, gravely ill mother enters a sanitarium. And Kathleen (Kit) Ternan, along with her younger brother and baby sister, is abandoned by her grieving, widowed father. All three girls end up in Meadowridge, a small town somewhere in the “Midwest,” after having traveled over the prairie. Toddy joins the household of Octavia Vale, a wealthy, reserved widow who seeks a companion for her invalid granddaughter Helene. Laurel is adopted from the by Dr. and Mrs. Woodward. And Kit is chosen by the Hansens, a farm family who want a girl to assist the work-worn mother of five boys. How will these girls find happiness, identity, and love?
Jane Peart was one of my mother’s favorite authors, and is one of my wife’s too. So when my wife saw this trilogy at a homeschool camp garage sale, she picked it up. And while it would generally fall into the category of “romance,” I decided to read it as well since it is placed in a historical setting and deals with the Orphan Train phenomenon. Actually, the three sections were originally published as three separate books in 1990. Homeward the Seeking Heart is about Toddy, Quest for Lasting Love is about Laurel, and Dreams of a Longing Heart is about Kit. The three were republished as a single book in 1991. There are a few denominational beliefs and practices mentioned with which those associated with churches of Christ would not agree, but the books are generally wholesome with no bad language or immorality. Religion and church are an important part of these girls’ lives, and they demonstrate a trust in the Lord during all the trials and tribulations which they face.
There was actually a fourth book in Peart’s Orphan Train West series, The Heart’s Lonely Secret, in which Ivy Austin and Allison grow up together in the pastoral town of Brookdale, but they can’t shake their past identities as insecure orphans despite the nurturing of their adoptive families. It was not included in the single volume probably because it was not set in Meadowridge. The four books were republished in 2000 as Laurel (Orphan Train West, Book 1), Ivy and Allison (Orphan Train West, Book 2), Kit (Orphan Train West, Book 3), and Toddy (Orphan Train West, Book 4). I believe that all four have also been published together in an omnibus edition, or at least as a set. Jane Peart is a best-selling and award-winning novelist in both the secular and Christian markets. Her beloved Brides of Montclair Series is one of the longest continuous series on the market. The author of over sixty books in all, translated into several languages and sold internationally, she has also published the American Quilts Series, the Westward Dreams Series, the Edgecliffe Manor Mysteries, as well as many other titles.