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Mercy Train

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  509 ratings  ·  87 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
Paperback, 258 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by St. Martins Press-3PL (first published 2011)
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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 ·  509 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jul 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I can only give the book "Mercy Train" a three and barely at that. I wanted to read this book because it mentioned that one of the characters Violet rode the orphan train when she was 11 years old in 1900. The parts with Violet were good and interesting. I liked her plot line. Instead it goes between three characters' point of view. Violets, Iris, daughter of Violet, and Samantha daughter of Iris. I was disappointed that Samantha knew almost nothing of her grandmother. and neither Iris or ...more
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-my-shelves
Another great read by this author, told through the eyes of three generations of women in one family. Another look into orphan trains and the over run rampant children of New York.
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wonderful generational story of women. Because I've read several books on the orphan trains, I was glad it wasn't all about that again. I note that others perhaps who hadn't read books on the orphan trains, wanted more though!

This is a story more about the grandmother, mother and daughter and the secrets that are/were kept, and how they impacted all of them. Beautifully written book with wonderful character development.

I heard Rae Meadows speak at the Wisconsin Book Festival, and she was a
Karen Batshaw
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 11, 2012 rated it did not like it

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,
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa Forsen
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
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...
Dec 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
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...
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a book club choice. I had no previous knowledge about the orphan trains of the past and would have liked to have read more about this topic. The original publishing title was Mothers and Daughters and I think that it makes a better title to go with the subject matter. Although we do get to read about some of Violets experiences in the streets of NYC and why her mother could not keep her, it does not go into much detail about the background of the orphan trains and what happened to ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: drama
I had read The Orphan Train earlier and was glad that this one was a different approach.
This highlighted a very poignant chapter in U.S. history. It is hard to imagine that happening in our culture today. We don't know poor!
I enjoyed Rae's writing but found the activities of each member in their chapters some what hard to follow. Ex.: I couldn't always tell the stage of Iris's health and is Ella born at this stage of Samantha's life. It was cleared up eventually but caused unnecessary confusion.
Pamela Maring
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Liked Orphan Train a bit more, but each showed a totally plausible narative... I really like reading history as fiction in this manner. Has Author notes and questions... I like that in a book.
Dianna Shimizu
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
I had high hopes for this story, but ended up disappointed.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I didn't think the blurb on the book cover was really accurate as to what this book was about. I expected more of a discovery of family secrets. I was somewhat disappointed.
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Another book about the orphan trains. I learned that even though they were Christian charity work, the program was a predecessor to our current foster care system.
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
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
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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 ...more
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
May 21, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
Jan 09, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book but I couldn't give it more than 3 stars. It moves back and forth between the three characters, Sam, Iris, and Violet. Sam I found boring and peculiar, Iris saddened me because of her circumstances and then there was Violet. Violet is the hit of the whole novel. The glue that keeps the book interesting. Honestly the whole book should have been about her and delved further into her story. Sam and Iris are just hindrances in this tale. I understand what the author was trying to ...more
Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
(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
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Amber Balash
May 01, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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Rae Meadows is the author of Calling Out, which received the 2006 Utah Book Award for fiction, No One Tells Everything, a Poets & Writers Notable Novel, and the widely praised novel, Mercy Train (in hardcover as Mothers and Daughters). Her fourth novel, I Will Send Rain, was an Indie Next pick, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, and was shortlisted ...more