The Long Ride Home
post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: The Long Ride Home
Author: Susan R. Lawrence
Major Themes: Farm Life, Orphan Trains
Synopsis: When Bert rides the orphan train to Iowa, will he find a real family—or will he have to go back to New York City?
I’m always on the lookout for new, good, historical fiction books for children, so when I saw The Long Ride Home in a list of books available for review, I decided to take a look at it. We haven’t read very much yet about the orphan trains, so I was hoping for a good, accurate story—but a positive one.
Bert Davidson and his sister Emma were boarding a train in New York City, and on their way to Iowa where they hoped to find a new home. Some older boys in their car, who hoped to get jobs on farms in Iowa kept heckling him all the way there. Bert almost hoped he would get sent back to New York where things were familiar—but at the same time he was afraid he would not be chosen by a family. Sure enough, at the end of the day, he was the only orphan left with no family.
The next morning, a family on a farm out of town said they might be interested in taking Bert in—but when he got there he found a man and woman who didn’t smile. Almost immediately, Bert found himself working harder than he ever imagined he could. Soon, though, he knew he wanted to stay—but did the Vogels want him?
I enjoyed the realistic way the farm was portrayed. The smelly chickens, the cow who was normally gentle but didn’t appreciate being ridden, and the barn cats all added to the delightful setting. The conflict between Bert and Frank, one of the older boys who rode the train with him, was very realistic, as well. I appreciated the way Bert finally resolved that conflict, at the same time as he was worrying about when he would have to go back to New York. This is a well-written story, and the first-person writing style adds to its appeal, in my opinion.
One thing that helped pull the story together was the mention, at various points along the way, of the Beatitudes and other passages from the Sermon on the Mount. Bert learned some important life lessons from hearing these passages read, and when he applied them to his own life, good things happened.
I recommend this book for any child who enjoys reading. It’s not an intense, fast-paced story, but the action does keep moving, and there are some good lessons worked into it quite naturally.
I received a free ecopy of this book from NetGalley, and chose to write a review.