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With vivid writing, absorbing characters, and surprisingly timely issues around immigration, privilege and the frightening pandemic we face today, Ellen Marie Wiseman weaves a powerful tale of resilience and hope set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak – the illness that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population…
In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.
Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”
Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey to find her way back to her remaining family. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.
Praise for The Orphan Collector
“Blistering, moving and profound…an extraordinary exploration of the plight of immigrants, as two very different women grapple with finding, keeping, and changing their place in the world.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World
“An immersive historical tale with chilling twists and turns.”—Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter
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Advance Praise from Booksellers & Librarians
“A truly evil villain, unprotected children, and a fact-based, compelling plot combine to make The Orphan Collector a book that is sure to be flying off the shelves. Book clubs and fans of Sue Meissner's As Bright as Heaven and Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours will have found their next great read with The Orphan Collector.” – Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books (Excelsior, MN)
“This is such a tragic page from our nation’s past and it is even more relevant today than ever, as our government decides who is worthy of saving and who is not. Wiseman’s story is beautiful, bold and frightening and more than anything, a cautionary tale.” – Rosemary Smith, Williams Library (Oakland, ME)
“Just when I thought Ellen Marie Wiseman's writing couldn't get any better she delivers another sensational novel... The Orphan Collector is a story of tragic loss and the incredible strength and determination required to carry on. Book Clubs everywhere will be debating the decisions made by The Orphan Collector. I can't wait to hand sell this book.” – Bill Reilly, The River’s End Bookstore (Oswego, NY)
“Filled with jaw-dropping actions and raw emotion that left me utterly speechless. I was familiar with the 1918 influenza, but it wasn't until I read Ellen's descriptions that I realized just how much people suffered through during this point in history… I've read all of Ellen's books and loved them, but this one really takes the reader right into the heart of the subject matter and doesn't release them until the very last page. The characters in the book were so well written.” – Marianne Colton, Lockport Public Library (Lockport, NY)
“Wiseman takes the sad story of the 1918 flu epidemic in Philadelphia and gives it a face with the tale of Pia Lange…This is a great story that reveals both the best and the worst in people.” – Beth Carpenter, The Country Bookshop (Southern Pines, NC)
“This is such an emotionally intense story. I was gripped by young Pia’s journey to reunite with her siblings during a devastating historical era, when the Spanish flu snatched away so many innocent lives. With heart-rending tension, Ellen Marie Wiseman unfolds a tale of desperate hope, evil wrought by prejudice, and the unwavering love of family. Though it takes place a century ago, it also offers a timely reminder of how immigrants are tightly woven into America’s fabric.” – Sarah L. Johnson, Booth Library (Charleston, IL)