The Midnight Train Home

Erika Tamar, Author Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers $16.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-375-80159-4
In this novel set during the Great Depression, Tamar (The Junkyard Dog) adds some twists to the much-explored terrain of the orphan train. As the story opens, 11-year-old Deirdre O'Rourke and her two brothers are boarding a train at New York's Grand Central Station; their mother then walks away, ""stiff-legged and fast down the street, her arms wrapped tight around her body."" The scene sets the book's somber tone. An aura of despair and loneliness persists as Deirdre watches her three-year-old brother go off with new parents, then is forced to abandon her 13-year-old brother when she, too, is adopted. Miserable in her new home with an austere minister and his wife, ridiculed by children for her hand-me-down clothes and viewed by adults as a ruffian, Deirdre loses her sense of dignity and identity until she hatches a plan to find her older brother. While the story line seems to be headed toward a happy reunion of the three children, fate plays an interesting trick, changing Deirdre's course. The protagonist's gift for song seems somewhat tacked on, since readers witness little of her joy of singing; as her talent plays such a crucial role in the novel's outcome, they may be left unconvinced by the final turn of events. Still, Deirdre's realization that she is in control of her destiny comes as an uplifting epiphany, adding light to a rather grim sequence of events. Ages 10-13. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2000
Release date: 06/01/2000
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-440-41670-8
Library Binding - 204 pages - 978-0-375-90159-1
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