The Orphan Keeper

Adapted for Young Readers from the Best-Selling Novel

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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 18 Oct 2022

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Seven-year-old Chellamuthu’s life—and his destiny—is forever changed when he is kidnapped from his village in Southern India and sold to the Lincoln Home for Homeless Children. His family is desperate to find him, and Chellamuthu anxiously tells the Indian orphanage he is not an orphan, that he has a mother who loves him. But he is told not to worry as he will soon be adopted by a loving family in America.

Chellamuthu is suddenly surrounded by a foreign land and a foreign language. He can’t tell people that he already has a family and becomes consumed by a single, impossible question: How do I get home? But after more than a decade, home becomes a much more complicated idea as the Indian boy eventually sheds his past and receives a new name: Taj Khyber Rowland.

It isn’t until Taj meets an Indian family who helps him rediscover his culture and family history that he begins to discover the truth he has all but forgotten. Taj is determined to return to India and begin the quest to find his birth family. But is it too late? Is it possible that his birth mother is still looking for him? And which family does he belong to now?

The Orphan Keeper is a deeply moving and gripping journey about discovering one’s self and the unbreakable family bonds that connect us forever.

Seven-year-old Chellamuthu’s life—and his destiny—is forever changed when he is kidnapped from his village in Southern India and sold to the Lincoln Home for Homeless Children. His family is...

Advance Praise

Praise for the original adult edition:

"Despite being adopted from India, Taj is an excelling American teen. When he's matched with an Indian family during a study-abroad program in London, Taj begins to remember pieces of his childhood...and the family from which he was kidnapped and sold to an orphanage. Hoping to understand more about his identity, Taj immerses himself in Indian culture...and eventually marries an Indian woman who turns out to have a surprising connection to his past. Armed with a map drawn from memory, Taj returns to India to search for his birth family. Wright (The Rent Collector, 2012) turns the story of the real-life Chellamuthu/Taj into a meditation on identity and the meaning of family, and a novel that is sure to be a book club favorite."-Booklist

"When I finished The Orphan Keeper I was keenly aware of the fragility associated with losing something precious then finding something of even greater value. Beautifully crafted by Camron Wright...Like Dickens, the child in this story is subjected to loss leavened with love. Everything that happens is not fiction. It happened as written, and for a reader who waivers between agnosticism and belief, this is a story that has me - and keeps me - thinking. The loss and pain [is] described with consummate skill. The Orphan Keeper taps into questions of coincidence and belief that have kept me in a state of wonder since I reluctantly closed its covers. Amazing read."-The Huffington Post

"A deftly crafted and consistently compelling read from beginning to end. Riveting story of self-discovery and will prove to be an enduring popular addition to community library collections. Very highly recommended." -Midwest Book Review

"Fascinating novel paints a detailed picture of India far from the glamour of Bollywood, and takes the reader deep into what it means to lose a family and be transplanted into a new culture. It also details the drive of an adult to rediscover what was lost. Taj's story entertains and touches the heart."

-Washington Independent Review of Books

"Truly a remarkable story of one young man's journey to discover his past. Camron Wright's fascinating novel is actually based on a true story, which makes it all the more powerful."

(four and a half out of five stars)-Portland Book Review

Foreword Reviews 2016 Indies Book of the Year Award gold-medal winner--MULTICULTURAL

-Foreword Reviews

Praise for the original adult edition:

"Despite being adopted from India, Taj is an excelling American teen. When he's matched with an Indian family during a study-abroad program in London, Taj begins...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781639930548
PRICE $17.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 15 members

Featured Reviews

Chellamuth’s life is forever altered after he is kidnapped from his Southern India village and sold to the orphanage, Lincoln Home for Homeless Children. While Chellamuth is desperately trying to tell the staff of the orphanage that he has a family, his family is on the outside searching for him. Soon Chellamuth is adopted to an American family and thrown into the foreign land, language and lifestyle. After a decade of living a lie and seeking for answers on how to get back to hi homeland, Chellamuth now has a new name, and has met another Indian family who brings him back to his culture.

Talk about a page turning, tear filled time with this one! This is based on a true story and is filled with so much emotion and love. Chellamuth is a beautiful young boy who grows into a strong young man and never looses hope and his heart for his family. So happy that this book was adapted for a younger audience!

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The Orphan Keeper is a story about a boy from India who is kidnapped and placed in an orphanage, and then adopted by a family in the United States. The story begins with Chellamuthu's early childhood, which is a mix of memories and realistic fictionalized events that may have occurred or were typical of this time period and location. While waiting for his father to complete some business, Chellamuthu is kidnapped at about age 7 and taken to an orphanage under the impression that he has no living family. Despite Chellamuthu's attempts to alert the organizers to the fact that he has a family, he is eventually adopted to a family in the states in a fairly sketchy adoption. Chellamuthu's adoptive parents provide him a home and family and support him but also make some mistakes that affect him for most of his life.

This edition is a young readers edition and while I have not read the adult version so I can't make comparisons, I do feel that this book is interesting for both young and adult readers. The book is very well written and easy to comprehend. Despite some jumping back and forth in time periods and locations, it is easy to follow. The storyline is interesting and captivating, especially closer to the end when he begins a search for family. I would recommend this book to middle and highschool grade teachers interested in exploring racism and the "white saviour" mindset that was common in the past and still shines through today. I would also recommend this book to anyone interested in adoption memoirs, stories about finding lost family members and coming of age stories for teens and adults who have experienced traumatic childhoods. I so appreciate Netgalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read and review this awesome book!

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Sooooo good! Cameron Wright has a a powerful way with words. This story will not only make you feel all the feels but you will feel them deep in your heart. Definitely recommend!

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The Orphan Keeper is a story of a child’s journey through kidnapping, international adoption, and rediscovery of his roots. It is a fascinating story, but I find it hard to shelve it in traditional literary categories.
Chellamuthu is a seven-year-old child growing up in Erode, India. When he is kidnapped and sold to an orphanage, he finds himself adopted by American parents in a secret and lucrative business deal. As he grows up in America, he never finds his place, always feeling like an outsider until a study abroad trip brings him into contact with a large Indian community in London. His experiences in London trigger long-buried memories that lead him back to India to
search for his roots.
His story is tragic, enraging, and encouraging in turns. Most readers will be horrified by the practice of kidnapping children to sell to adoptive parents in other countries, and many will be touched by Chellamuthu’s resilience, persistence, and eventual success. While the story is enthralling, it covers Chellamuthu’s life from childhood through adulthood, so it defies easy categorization. It is not written in a manner that would naturally draw in young readers, so it will be most appropriate for young adults or adult readers who will value Cheelamithu’s journey. Younger readers may be interested in the early parts of the story, while adults will value Chellamuthu’s eventual search for his biological family and homeland. The concept of this story is important and intriguing, and I wish that it’s style and voice were more appealing to a specific audience.

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Taj Rowland’s life is a remarkable story. His full-circle journey is retold here (with some respectable liberties) in a lovely way. It’s a wonderful glimpse of part of the culture/traditions/ways of life in India. I believe it will keep the attention of young adult readers and offer them a wildly differing life perspective.

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Book based on true story always become my weakness. And in this book Chellamuth's life successful make my heart turn upside. Kidnapped since young age from his Southern India village, and then sold to orphanage we will saw how this young boy fighting for found his own family again.
This memoir book is intense, feel me with so much heartbroken moments and yet it give it comfort and hope.
I would recommend this book to reader who love this type of story and understand the beauty of it.

Thanks Netgalley for providing me with this book.

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NOTE: I was given early access to this manuscript in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing. Scheduled Publication: October 4, 2022.

An important clarification. This review references the YOUNG ADULT version of a longer adult novel by the same name, THE ORPHAN KEEPER, that was published in 2016. And I, for one, am glad this story is now accessible to a younger audience.

Based on a true story (there are photos at the end of the book), the novel tells the story of one child in India who is adopted and raised in the United States. Chellamuthu’s transition from Indian poverty to American middle class isn’t what you might expect. Though not a victim of physical abuse or mistreatment, Chellamuthu’s is a victim of clandestine and economically-driven adoption practices that unfairly uproot a powerless seven-year-old boy, who just happens to be in the wrong place and the wrong time.

It’s a rich and at times suspenseful story about someone who struggles with identity and often feels like an outsider. About his internal struggle between two cultures and about a young person trying to reckon two parts of oneself. There’s a protagonist that is easy for younger readers to identify with and the novel raises some challenging questions to ponder about diversity, race, and identity. Not to mention the issues involved in adopting a child of a different racial or cultural identity.

This is a plot-driven book with plenty of action that follows Chellamuthu from child to adult. It would be an excellent book to assign to a middle school class to read and discuss as a group.

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Seven-year-old Chellamutha is living in abject poverty with his family in India when one day he is kidnapped, sold to an orphanage, and ultimately adopted by a family in America. Over time Chellamutha, (who is renamed Taj) forgets is childhood in India and although loved and treated well by his adopted family, he never feels he belongs. It is only after attending college abroad in London and living with an Indian family that he starts to put the puzzle pieces of memory together. Based on a true story, readers are taken on a journey of self-discovery, the importance of family and finding one’s place in the world. Dealing with the very real problem of human trafficking, it’s not a light read, but a very important one. Thank to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me an E-Arc in exchange for an honest review,

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The Orphan Keeper is a tender, thought provoking story based on true events. I enjoyed reading about Chellamuthu's journey from an Indian orphanage after being kidnapped, to his new home in the US. The novel gave an interesting insight into the dark side of international adoptions and how organizations sometimes exploit the children they purport to protect. Overall, an enjoyable read and highly recommend.

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This book tells the novelized real life story of the main character. First published in 2017 as an adult novel, it has now been adapted for young readers, the version I read. I think it worked well as a young readers version although perhaps some of the things that I found just average about the plot and the characterization could come from a possibly simplistic adaptation. Having not read the original version, I do not know if this is true or not.
This book can be split into two primary portions, childhood, and young adult years. The main character loves his family but struggles in the endemic poverty of his small Indian village as well as the alcoholism of his father. One day he finds himself kidnapped by people who work for a Christian orphanage many hours away and through this, even though he repeatedly tells people that he has a family, ends up adopted by a couple in the United States. The second half of the book picks up as he is about to head to college and finds himself in a study aboard program in London and through an interesting turn of events returning to India and finding his birth family.
This book read quickly. I did not mind the read but I did not really feel challenged in any way either.

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Knowing that this is the -mostly- true story of Chellamuthu (Taj Rowland), makes everything I read that much more heart wrenching. Camron Wright does an incredible job of sharing the story of an "orphan" adopted from India and raised in America. I read the whole story in one day -- I just couldn't put it down until I found out how it ended for poor Chellamuthu and his family.

I definitely want to read the adult version of this story now!

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What an amazing story of persistence and following your 'map'. Chellamuthu/Taj's story is incredibly beautiful. It is all about love of family, love of others, cultures that are different and friendships that last through thick and thin. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. That it was based on reality is mind blowing. To me this reaffirmed that God is in the details of our lives.

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