The Orphan Collector

The Orphan Collector

Ellen Marie Wiseman

Pub: July 28, 2020



With vivid writing, immediately absorbing characters, and surprisingly timely issues, Ellen Marie Wiseman weaves a powerful tale of upheaval, resilience and hope amidst the tragic 1918 influenza: the seemingly apocalyptic illness that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population: In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind. On the same street, Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision that leads her on a sinister mission to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans”: Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum: the first step in a long and arduous journey to find her way back to her remaining family. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, ultimately risking everything to see justice: and love: triumph at last.