Monday, 21 March 2016

Forgetting Tabitha

Author: Julie Dewey
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: ebook
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tour
Publisher: Holland Press
First Published: January 1, 2016
First Line: "1920 - In my reverie, an old lady settled in a creaky wicker rocker, beside a bounty of lush gardens, I recall Mama's stories about my birth and our early years, both on the farm and in the city."

Book Description from GoodReads: Raised on a farm, Tabitha Salt, the daughter of Irish immigrants, leads a bucolic and sheltered existence. When tragedy strikes the family, Tabitha and her mother are forced to move to the notorious Five Points District in New York City, known for its brothels, gangs, gambling halls, corrupt politicians and thieves. As they struggle to survive in their new living conditions, tragedy strikes again. Young Tabitha resorts to life alone on the streets of New York, dreaming of a happier future.
The Sisters of Charity are taking orphans off the streets with promises of a new life. Children are to forget their pasts, their religious beliefs, families and names. They offer Tabitha a choice: stay in Five Points or board the orphan train and go West in search of a new life.
The harrowing journey and the decision to leave everything behind launches Tabitha on a path from which she can never return.

My Review:  I was attracted to this book based solely on the fact that it was a historical fiction read that dealt with orphan trains.  I was introduced to this little known part of American history a couple of years ago with Christina Baker Kline's book, aptly named 'Orphan Train', and it remains a very interesting part of the US's history.

Forgetting Tabitha starts out strong with good descriptions of what life was like in New York City for those less fortunate - the poverty, the lack of hygiene and education of children etc.  But as I continued to read, my feelings for the book began to wane and unfortunately that trend continued for the remainder of the book.

There are a few reasons for my lower rating.  While I enjoyed the orphan train aspect, it was short lived within the book.  As the book progresses the focus and even the style of the writing seemed to change and became weaker -  it almost felt like it was written by different authors.  The middle and end of the book had various characters who take over the reigns of the story but these points of view caused the story to feel muddled (the 'too many cooks in the kitchen' phenomenon) and also diminished my connection to Tabitha.  Gone was the gritty look at NYC and in its place we're left with many of the secondary characters feeling like clich├ęs with the plots, big and small, feeling rather predictable. 

Dewey has some good ideas but with some editing, more complicated plots and more time to connect with the main character this book could have been great.  She has written some rather striking scenes showcasing the violence towards women at the time, specifically women in the world's 'oldest profession'.  Many of Dewey's story lines had good promise but for the second half of the book they started to feel contrived and predictable with some of the issues raised feeling too simplified and dealt with too easily or believably for the time.

While I applaud the author for writing about this era of American history Forgetting Tabitha was a much lighter read than I was expecting. It was an emotional and heart-wrenching time but unfortunately the plot, characters and writing weren't as strong as I was hoping for.  Readers who enjoy lighter historical fiction (author Josephine Cox' work come to mind) may enjoy this book.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to author Julie Dewey and HF Virtual Blog Tour for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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