In Rodzina, we follow a group of orphans from Chicago on a train bound for the west. The train is scheduled to stop many cities. The two leaders send advertisements ahead by telegraph to see if there are homes that will welcome any of the children. Often there are not.
The long train ride accross the midwest gives readers a glimpse at the personalities and quirks of some of the children, including a joke-telling boy with eys that roamed this way and that, and a beautiful little girl what was “slow.” And there are a few surprises too! We gradually become either worried, happy, or dismayed as the children leave with families we know nothing about. A few (a very few) find loving homes with mothers and fathers wanting more children. Others are expected to be unpaid house slaves or farmhands.
Rodzina Clara Jadwiga Anastazya Brodski, a strong and stubborn 12 year old Polish orphan, (who is the narrator), is first chosen as a house servant to a pair of older women. After hearing the long list of responsibilities she will have (cleaning bedpans, chopping wood, butchering pigs), she’s able to convince them, that she would be very bad at it. So bad is her description, they turn around and take her back to the train.
Next she is taken as a “helper” to a very sick woman with a batch of 13 kids living in a dugout hoval on the prairie. She soon discovers that she is to be the man’s bed-mate once the wife dies. He even makes advances the first night! Luckily the dying wife rescues her. Back on the train, more and more kids leave the group until Rodzina is the very last one and they have run out of interested families. What will happen to her?
At the end of the book, the author tells of her research in to the truth of the Orphan Trains and placements, and how they sometimes succeeded, but most often put the children in horrendous situations. Many ran away. This audiobook is well worth the listen.