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Time constricts and flattens, you know. It’s not evenly weighted. Certain moments linger in the mind and others disappear.
I came across ‘Orphan Train’ in the most clichéd of ways – browsing the New York Times Bestsellers List. As avid readers would know, the said list is reflection of what sells and not what’s good.
But I was past whatever apprehension I had after reading through the first few pages and soon enough, the alternating style and storyline of two lonely girls trapped in similar prisons of solitude one century and a few hundred miles apart became a compulsive page turner.
The Orphan Trains of the last century were a phenomenon that manifested to us what ‘well-meaning evil’ looks like. Maybe you would have an even better insight into the twisted logic of it after turning over 300-or-so pages that this gem of a book packs.
Loneliness and the feeling of not belonging anywhere at all are the two great emotions that can drive one to desperation. ‘Orphan Train’, and the books similar to it listed below do a great job of analysing this basest of human emotions.
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If pride is a sin, moral pride is the greatest sin.
‘The Cider House Rules’ is a treat for everyone who loves a complex storyline, alternating temporal leaps and in general, a feeling of loose perfection that threatens to go awry if not kept in check.
John Irving, better known for his screenwriting, broke into the world of letters with this remarkable tale of an orphan boy named Homer Wells and his convoluted relationships with the world at large.
The life of an American orphan – a trait made so romantic by Hollywood of the 50s – is depicted with authority and morbid candidness in an attempt to rise above sympathy or charity.
An acclaimed movie adaptation of the book was released in 1999.
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What drove them to the hilt and back wasn’t righteousness or morality. It was hunger.
‘The Little Immigrants’, despite being a highly anticipated book, was received with rather lukewarm response by the readers and the critics alike.
That’s why, when I first skimmed through it, I didn’t even have much intention of reading it through. But I did end up reading it, and I have cherished every second of it.
The story chiefly revolves around a large lot of young orphans who were shipped from England to Canada during the latter parts of the 19th century to help ‘build’ Canada.
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Each of us is all the sums he has not counted; subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.
With ‘Look Homeward, Angel’, a writer named Thomas Wolfe rose on the American literary horizon, only to shine for a brief period of time.
For many, it is the best depression era novel (save ‘The Grapes of Wrath’) that dealt with fading family values and the heart-wrenching struggle of a well-meaning young lad to get out of a small-town in Texas (it wouldn’t be surprising if the story reminds you of ‘Little Cloud’ by le meilleur littérateur James Joyce).
‘Orphan Train’ is a book that is entirely driven by emotions. This tradition of using characters to express one’s own emotions, from bliss to grief and everything that lies in between, goes a long way back.
So, let’s take a look at two classics that are usually overlooked.
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“Take her,” he said. “Take her, John Bretton; and may God deal with you as you deal with her!”
Charlotte Brontë need not be introduced at all to readers of classic Victorian English literature. ‘Villette’ is probably the most underrated novel and perhaps the very best in terms of emotional exploration.
The story is that of a life-deciding journey that a young English girl has to make to a fictional French town named ‘Villette’ in order to get away from her grief and demons of the past.
For the fans of wrist-breaking tomes and eye-watering melodramas, this is a formula worth storing in a time capsule for the posterity.
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To take what you would give me, I should have to be either a very large man or a very small one, and I am only in the middle class.
Willa Cather’s best known work is also her least demanding one. ‘O Pioneers!’ is an ode to the lost tribe of righteous, old-schooled, country-building and farm-raking hands that built America.
The Bergson family of young and orphaned siblings traverse through the heart of America from snowy Chicago to vast Nebraska in order to settle into a life of fulfilment. What follows is a journey that takes more turns than one could care to count.
But rest assured, it’s all worth the effort.
Most of us take for granted the feeling of having a home to go back to at the end of the day. That’s why we need these books like ‘Orphan Train’ to remind us to count our blessing and, in the least, be empathetic towards those who can’t.
If you are looking for more such books that deal with the sense of being unstuck, you might want to check the following titles out: ‘Silas Marner’, ‘Kim’, ‘Big Little Lies’, ‘We are Water’, and ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’.
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