What is the summary of The Orphan Collector? From the internationally bestselling author of What She Left Behind, a powerful tale of upheaval, resilience and hope set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak—the deadly pandemic that went on to infect one-third of the world’s population…
In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded slums and the anti-immigrant sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army. But as her city celebrates the end of war, an even more urgent threat arrives: the Spanish flu. Funeral crepe and quarantine signs appear on doors as victims drop dead in the streets and desperate survivors wear white masks to ward off illness. When food runs out in the cramped tenement she calls home, Pia must venture alone into the quarantined city in search of supplies, leaving her baby brothers behind.
Bernice Groves has become lost in grief and bitterness since her baby died from the Spanish flu. Watching Pia leave her brothers alone, Bernice makes a shocking, life-altering decision. It becomes her sinister mission to tear families apart when they’re at their most vulnerable, planning to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”
Waking in a makeshift hospital days after collapsing in the street, Pia is frantic to return home. Instead, she is taken to St. Vincent’s Orphan Asylum – the first step in a long and arduous journey. As Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost in the months and years that follow, Pia must confront her own shame and fear, risking everything to see justice – and love – triumph at last. Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately exultant, The Orphan Collector is a story of love, resilience, and the lengths we will go to protect those who need us most.
Our end can come on suddenly, with a cataclysmic event that breaks our bodies from the outside, or slowly, with a lethal, silent virus or mutation wreaking havoc from the inside. Either way, we’re far from invincible.
I think that’s something we forget during our everyday pursuit of happiness and success. It was also disconcerting to write about the prejudice against German immigrants during that time because my mother grew up in Germany during WWII and we’ve both been victims of the same discrimination. (Above Left: Childhood school photo of Ellen Marie Wiseman)
Biography of Ellen Marie Wiseman: I was born and raised in a tiny hamlet in Northern New York, where I discovered my love of reading and writing while attending first grade in one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the state. My first stories starred heroic black horses and a beagle named Buffy the Rabbit Hunter.
As I got older, one of my favorite things to do was walk to the general store to buy a nickel candy bar and a scary comic book. I had a vivid imagination back then, imagining terrifying creatures around every corner—kidnappers, ghosts, vampires, and monsters from the deep. I discovered the power of words during my teenage years while reading Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Dean Koontz.
When I got married and became a mother, (which was all I ever wanted) writing became a hobby, and thinking about getting published became a fun daydream. It wasn’t until my son and daughter left for college that I decided to get serious about it.
by Karen Hugg