The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman was such a captivating read (or in my case, listen). First and foremost, the story takes place during the Spanish Influenza. Can I just say how surreal it was to read about how over 100 years ago there was a massive epidemic in which people were dying so rapidly, businesses shut down, and the hospitals were overran. Sound familiar? Oh, that’s right… COVID.
Once I got past the initial shock of how history repeats itself, I was drawn into the story of Pia as she navigated this dreadful time. As a young girl during this time, I found her story so inspiring as she perseveres through unimaginable conditions and life experiences, from losing her mother, to contracting and surviving the flu, and overcoming it all. I felt like she was forced to grow up so quickly and she handled it with grace. Her story alone is what kept me hanging on until the end of the book, needing to know if she ever finds her baby brothers (sorry, no spoilers here, folks).
Meanwhile, you have Bernice. I don’t even know where to begin with this witch of a woman. I mean, I completely understand her heartache at losing her husband and her baby boy to the Spanish Flu. That being said, she is a terrible, terrible human (in my not-so-humble opinion). Ellen Marie Wiseman does a phenomenal job depicting this character. So much so that I almost stopped listening to the book because Bernice made me so upset! However, don’t let her stop you from reading this page-turner!
The Orphan Collector was ultimately a great book and I’m glad I didn’t let my distaste for Bernice stop me from getting to the end. I will say, though, if you have a light stomach, this might not be a book for you (at least not at the beginning). Ellen does not hold back on describing the ways in which those affected by the Spanish Flu suffered. The way she describes the toll this flu took on people’s bodies…. I can honestly still picture it in my head weeks later, and trust me when I say it is not a pretty sight. That being said, if you are looking for a great historical fiction novel that demonstrates grit and perseverance, this would be a great book for you to consider adding to your collection or checking out from your local library! Happy reading!