The cover is splashed with plenty of colorful hints as to the content of this sweeping story. The mountains speak to me of Montana where the novel is set. The train gives you a good idea of the time period, too. The children huddled together on a suitcase certainly get my attention and already begin to tug at my heartstrings. And, then, there is the lone horse grazing in the background. When I settled in to read YOU BELONG HERE NOW, I already knew the story was set in the era of the orphan trains that brought orphaned children across the country from the east coast into the west. Along the way, the trains would stop at designated cities and people would or would not adopt them. Some of the reasons people took these children in were not always in the best interest of the children. So there was that. So, I knew that. I wondered how Rostad would present her story in a fresh new way. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. This historical novel will break your heart. Will open your eyes and will give you plenty of food for thought.
This is the photo of a flier at the train station. This is how the story begins. In a small town in Montana one family is just trying to keep their ranch going. Nara is unmarried and trying like hell to pick up the slack now that her father is past his prime and her brother has run away to “find” himself. She’s actually doing a pretty good job of it. But dad will not admit it and is still waiting for his son to come to his senses and come back to run the ranch. Mom is doing what she’s always done: keep the house running and practically live in the kitchen where she feeds and clothes everyone. We know something has happened to this family. Something tragic that keeps them from ever being happy.
Now, what of this orphan train? The train arrives in Montana from NYC. The three children who jump the train before it arrives in the town are fearful that they will not be adopted since this is the last stop. These three are Charles who is a troubled teen who has known more than his share of hardship and run-in’s with the law. He’s the oldest. Patrick is a red-headed Irish kid who’s smart as a whip but since he’s Irish he knows his chances are less than zero to be adopted with the unpopularity of the Irish at this time. Then we meet little Opal who is quiet little girl with bruises on her body and her soul. These three children are the basis for this novel.
I had no idea horses were going to be such a big part of this novel. But I am so glad they are. I learned so much. I am a huge animal lover and the plight of the wild horses totally made me mad and drew me in. I wanted to know more. Much more. Rostad gives you information about these horses and there are links to websites to learn more in the back of her book. Trust me, you will be interested.
We have such varied meanings of what makes a family these days. I enjoyed the journey of how this family was made. I loved the writing. I fell for the horses and the people. I can’t wait to read the next installment from this amazing new writer: Dianna Rostad.
Don’t miss the reading group guide at the end of the book. And, you will want to read more behind the scenes about how and why Dianna wrote this book. You’ll be impressed by the blurbs from many big authors such as Meg Waite Clayton, Kathleen Grissom, William Kent Krueger and Erika Robuck.
My finished trade paper copy of YOU BELONG HERE NOW arrived from William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins. I have to thank Kathie Bennett of Magic Time Literary for prompting this mailing. And making me aware of this wonderful new author: Dianna Rostad. Rostad lives near me in Naples, Florida. I look forward to meeting her soon.