Together Forever

Jody Hedlund. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1805-7

Hedlund’s overly dramatic second Orphan Train historical novel (after With You Always) focuses on Marianne Neumann, who, in 1858 New York, resolves to find both her younger sister, Sophie, and her friend Reinhold, to whom she’d like to be engaged. Both have allegedly headed west on trains filled with orphans who are looking for homes and work across the American heartland. Marianne finally comes across Reinhold as she travels through the small towns spanning southern Illinois, but also meets Andrew Brady, a devout fellow placing agent and former schoolteacher who is wonderful with the children but hides a heavy burden from his past. After her time searching for Reinhold, Marianne can’t help but admit that her feelings are changing. Marianne and Andrew become closer as they struggle through days on the train, and lean on each other during the difficult process of seeing the children leave for new homes. They become close, but also face tragedy and Andrew’s potential arrest. In the end, Marianne relies on her biblical principles to battle against misplaced loyalties and her desire to please others in order to find happiness. As Marianne gets closer to Sophie while connecting with Andrew and the orphans under her supervision, the many overlapping, highly emotional plot lines eventually overwhelm the story. Agency: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary. (May)