The Orphan Collector – 4.5 Star Review

Then she remembered what Mutti always said whenever she felt confused or unsure, “Just do the next thing.”

-Ellen Marie Wiseman, The Orphan Collector
Thank you to Goodreads and to Kensington Books for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! This book was fantastic. I feel that historical novels set in the WWII era flood the market a bit, so I am always excited to read about other historical times. The Orphan Collector is set in Philadelphia in 1918, when what we now call The Spanish Flu began to cause havoc. At this time, we are introduced to Pia. She is a German immigrant who lives with her mother and infant twin bothers, her father having been shipped off to fight in the war. As the flu starts claiming it’s victims in mere hours, Pia is soon forced to leave her twin brothers alone in their apartment to go out in search of food, for fear that if the flu doesn’t come for them, starvation will. Pia begins to show symptoms of The Spanish Flu on her trek for food, and passes out in the street. Pia awakes six days later and is distraught knowing that she has left her infant brothers alone. Before Pia is forced into an orphanage, she makes her way back to her apartment only to find that her brothers are gone. Pia never stops thinking about her brothers and feels the guilt crush in on her. She must know what happened to her brothers.

We are also introduced to a second POV, a woman that lives across the lane from Pia named Bernice. For the sake of keeping spoilers out of this review I will simply say: THIS WOMAN IS ABSOLUTELY VILE. I cannot tell you how many times my jaw actually dropped at the end of her chapters and I audibly said “Oh My God.” In the top 10 list of characters I feel actual repulsion and hatred for, Bernice is up at the top of it! I truly love when a book gives me such strong feelings about a character, as I believe that is an indicator of excellent writing. I was glad to see at the end of the novel the author made a note that the plot line surrounding Bernice was completely fictional and not based on true events. It was so plausible, though, that I was about to dive into research on my own to see if the horrible things Bernice did actually went on!

This book is a heartbreaking adventure that ends on a happy note. I did not know much about The Spanish Flu prior to this novel, but I am very interested in reading more about it. Wiseman did her research on the subject and it all felt very authentic. My only criticism of this book is that it started to feel a little too on the nose at the end for Pia. Things just really happened to start falling into place for her with no real work on her part and that’s always a little disappointing for me. All of that being said, I think this is a wonderful historical fiction novel and one that I will be recommending to my book club and fellow reading friends!

*Review by Kelly*

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