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Mercy Train

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  314 ratings  ·  64 reviews
A rich, luminous novel of three remarkable women connected across a century by a family secret and by the fierce brilliance of their love.

Samantha’s mother has been dead almost a year when the box arrives on her doorstep. In it, she finds recipe cards, keepsakes, letters—relics of her mother Iris’s past. But as Sam sifts through these family treasures, she uncovers evidenc
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2011)
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Samantha finds herself on a precipice, her role as mother has been her end all but now it’s time to return to her work, but her potter’s wheel remains dust covered as she instead breaks open a seal to mementos discovered from her mother who died two years prior. As she goes through the items both foreign and familiar, she finds things from both her mother Iris and her grandmother Violet which opens a new path of discovery for Sam, a discovery of two women who she should have known deeper, a disc ...more

The idea for this book is fascinating. I was mislead by the summary, which portrays a story of a young mother sifting through her mother's belongings and discovering a family history no one but her Grandmother knew about. It takes more than 1/2 the book for her to open the box of her Mother's belongings, and the rest of the book too look through them. She finds clues, which are great, but at no point does she actually discover anything about her family. We, as readers, know the backstory, becau
Lisa Forsen
Having coincidentally just finished The Chaperone, which happens to be about the same subject matter, I could not help but compare the two. I found this book a bit undeveloped...the characters and story lines for each one just seemed to be lacking. In fact, when I got to the last page, I was left with a sense of "that's it?". It was as if the author was given a word limit and hadn't thought the story out so had to wrap it up in 2 pages. Lots of unanswered questions...
This book seemed incomplete to me...when I reached the end I felt I had only read one fourth of it...there was no tying up of loose ends at closure of the was very poorly written...
Karen Batshaw
I wanted to know more about the orphan trains . Also wanted to know more about violet when she left the train. Found this book to be disappointing
This was a good book. I liked it. The blurb is a little misleading as it suggests that it is about a woman who finds a box of family keepsakes after the death of her Mother and that she discovers things about her Mother and her Grandmother that she never knew. The actual story is that a woman, Sam, finds a box of her Mother's keepsakes after her death, but really discovers nothing because she isn't particularly interested in the box, she spends most of the book not really looking in the box, and ...more
I picked this up on a whim at the library while my daughter waited (sort of) patiently to pick out her own books. It fit my criteria, which was: it was on a "recommended" shelf face out and looked not horrible. In other words, I didn't have high expectations.

However, while the book did feel somewhat like summertime "fluff" reading, I was pleasantly surprised not only by how enjoyable it was to read but also some of the very interesting questions and historical contexts it raised. I found it over
It was interesting to learn about the Children's Aid Society and the orphan train movement. The intention to find homes for orphaned or abandoned children seemed noble, but in reality there was no real system for finding safe and/or appropriate homes. There was no record keeping or follow up; these children were truly abandoned again once they were handed over to the society. Fortunately some were lucky enough to find good homes. The four generations of women, up to baby Ella, struggled with kee ...more
Diane S.
Three generations of mothers and daughter are featured in this novel. Samantha, with a young daughter of her own, is dealing with her own personal crisis, when she is sent a mystery box that contains her grandmothers history. She can use this history and learn from it, gain strength and find a way through her own life. In 1854 through 1929, may children including Samantha's grandmother roamed the streets of New York, forging their own families with other children and trying to survive on their o ...more
Rae Meadows book follows three generations of women creating a snapshot of a century in one family. Vivid in its language and rich in its details, this marvelous novel created deeply drawn characters who struggle with essential issues of place, motherhood, and identity. Highly recommended for book clubs and individual readers alike.
I throughly enjoyed this book written by Rae Meadows. I expected it's main focus to be centered on the orphan trains and the children whose lives were changed by them. However, I feel the main theme evolves around human relationships between generations .. and then the events, such as the orphan train, that helped mold their lives. The lives of several characters are profiled over a span of years. To my pleasure, I was surprised by some of the twists and turns – Meadows weaves a very emotionally ...more
This book could have been so much better. There was no resolution at the end. Did Sam make peace with her mother's death? Did she ever go back to pottery? Did she resolve things with her Dad? Her brother? Did Violet find happiness? It seemed like Iris was the only character that really got closure. I would have loved to read more about Violet's life in New York. Good book but could have used about 100 more pages.
I picked this book because it was a fictional story about orphan trains and how it shaped families across the country. The story follows Violet on the train, her daughter Iris as she dies from cancer, and Iris' daughter Samantha as she struggles with new motherhood. I found Violet's struggles on the streets of New York City and eventual orphan train experience most interesting, but also Violet's lack of relationship with her own mother trickles down to her daughter and granddaughter, as they all ...more
Elizabeth Moeller
I enjoyed this interwoven tale about three generations of one family. The oldest generation, Violet, was taken from Kentucky to NYC as a child with her barely capable mother. Violet's mother ended up giving her to a child welfare group that put children on trains bound for the west so they could have a better life. Violet's daughter, Iris, grew up as a model suburban wife and mother in the midwestern suburbs with no idea of her mother's past. Violet's granddaughter, Sam, discovers her grandmothe ...more
The book is the story of a woman who was put on a "mercy" or orphan train byt her mother who could not care for her. These trains took poor children from the city and gave them to families in the Midwest. Sometimes this was a success, but not always. The plot deals with Violet, the child put on the train; her daughter Iris, who tries to understand her mother's idiosyncracies; and Samantha, Iris's daughter. Obviously, a story or mothers and daughters and how they relate.

I was only briefly aware
This book was enjoyable because it told the story of three generations of women. They each had their secrets that the other didn't know. I think that it is interesting how life events of one effects the other. I wish that some of the secrets could have been found out by the others. It would have somehow given me some satisfaction to have had the daughter or granddaughter learn more about their mother or grandmother. Secrets, for the most part, stay hidden. That left me a little dissatisfied. Als ...more
I'm not even sure I had ever heard of orphan trains before I read this book!

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, trains took over 150,000 orphaned, neglected, or homeless children from New York City west to Christian families willing to take these children in. Some faired better than others, of course.

This story is a multigenerational tale with three stories in one. It's about Violet and her trip on the orphan train, about Iris dying of cancer, and about Samantha, a new mother struggling with th
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
I picked this up to read on the plane, and found it entertaining. I am always interested in any fiction involving the Orphan Trains. Three generations of women are introduced here, the first one being the young girl, Violet, whose mother is an opium addict and sends her away on the Orphan Train. We the readers know that, but the next two generations of women in the family will have to find that out: Violet's daughter, Iris, a divorcee who is oddly at peace though dying of cancer, and her daugher ...more
I am not sure what to write or how to explain this book yet.

The parts I know are:
I enjoyed the book once I got through the first four chapters, then I had enough context to piece the story together.
I had heard of the orphan trains, but had not spent a lot of time thinking about them and the horrors that could occur.
I continued to be amazed at the resilience of people when put in difficult positions.
When push comes to shove - very few people find peace and contentment...and perhaps that is one
I really enjoyed this read. The lives of all of these women were hard and I think in part due to the mysteries that surrounded their mothers. Violet was my favorite character, I think, because she was a survivor. She didn't look back after leaving New York and lived her life dealing with 3 miscarriages, and married to a man who wasn't the love of her life, but became her friend. When her husband had passed and her daughter was married and settled down, she stayed on the farm and just enjoyed the ...more
This book had promise with the voices of three very interesting characters. Unfortunately, it left me wondering what the point was. While the story line about the orphan trains that were around early in the 20th century is interesting, this one didn't do much.
Amber Balash
I read this for a book group. There's definitely a lot to talk about, especially in terms of motherhood, marriage, sense of self, generational issues, and more.
The author was certainly from a different worldview than I, but I appreciated her honesty. I can especially relate to the youngest mom and her questions of a creative career. I look forward to hearing others' points of view as we discuss it.
The "Orphan train" story line was especially fascinating, and is what may draw readers in who are
This was a quick read and I enjoyed it very much. The story moves back and forth between the lives of four women (Lilibet, Violet, Iris and Samantha). It's a lovely story of mothers and daughters and how they relate to each other.

The book follows Violet, whose destitute, opium addicted mother sends her away on an orphan train around the turn of the century. Many years later, her granddaughter delves into an old wooden box full of Violet's recipes, keepsakes, and letters ... and uncovers the past
Molto scorrevole, dolce a modo suo, una lettura della vita al femminile attraverso tre generazioni, tre donne raccontate con semplice sincerità. Davvero piacevole.
An interestingly constructed novel about three generations of women. Sam just had a baby and is trying to deal with not losing herself and her previous interests now that she is a mother. Her mother, Iris, is dying of cancer. Iris's mother, Violet, was 11 when she left New York City on the "mercy train", which took orphans to states like Wisconsin and Illinois to find new families. The book had alternating chapters about each of the three women. It was a study of motherhood.
It took me a long time to finish this book (2 months), but it was worth the persistence. The stories of three different generations don't directly relate to one another until about halfway through, and I found the beginning of the book very confusing. However, once the lives of the characters were intertwined, it became a powerful story of three women deeply connected. I can see myself reading this one again and being moved even more the second time around.
This book tracks three generation of women and does a fantastic job of weaving in and out through times within each of their stories. True storytelling. I didn't like the character of Sammy. What I enjoyed was the story of her mother Iris and the education I received about the "Orphan Trains" that took underpriviliged children from NYC and sent them to the Mid-West to be adopted, or in many cases indentured. Definitely worth reading
The title and the cover picture of this book would lead a reader to believe that this was a book about the Orphan Trains of the 19th century in America. In fact, it is the story of 3 generations of women in a family, and their relationships with each other. The fact that the grandmother was, in fact, abandoned by her mother in the slums of New York City and sent by train to find a new life, isn't really revealed until the last chapter.
This book was okay. I think Rae Meadows abandoned her characters. Violet, Iris and Samantha are all interesting women who have interesting stories to tell. However, Meadows leaves so many loose threads I found it frustrating. It's an easy read but kind of like eating Chinese food - fills you up, but not really and you end up being ravenous within a couple of hours.
Allyssa Cusimano
This book was beautifully written and full of meaning but I didn't read it at the right time. After reading some "fluff" books I was looking for something not too serious. It wasn't as much of a mystery as I had hoped, but still interesting. I also think it would mean more if I were a mother, as it is about the feelings motherhood brings over 3 generations.
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Follow up? 3 10 Jul 13, 2012 01:59PM  
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Rae Meadows is the author of Calling Out, which received the 2006 Utah Book Award for fiction, and No One Tells Everything, a Poets & Writers Notable Novel. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "
More about Rae Meadows...
Mothers and Daughters Calling Out No One Tells Everything Violets Vermächtnis

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