Mercy Train: Book summary and reviews of Mercy Train by Rae Meadows

Mercy Train

A Novel

By Rae Meadows

Mercy Train
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  • Published in USA  May 2012,
    288 pages.

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About this book

Book Summary

Mercy Train is a rich, luminous novel of three remarkable women connected across a century by a family secret and by the fierce brilliance of their love.

Moving from the tempered calm of contemporary Madison, Wisconsin to the seedy underbelly of early twentieth century New York, we come face to face with a haunting piece of America's past: From 1854 to 1929 orphan trains from New York transported 150,000 to 200,000 destitute, orphaned or abandoned children across the country to find homes on farms in the Midwest. Rae Meadows takes us on our own journey of discovery in Mercy Train, an affecting and wonderfully woven novel about three generations of motherhood, family, and the surprising sacrifices we make for the people we love.

Samantha’s mother has been dead almost a year when the box arrives on her doorstep. In it, she finds recipe cards, keepsakes, letters - relics of her mother Iris's past. But as Sam sifts through these family treasures, she uncovers evidence that her grandmother, Violet, had a much more difficult childhood then she could have ever imagined. And Sam, a struggling new mother herself, begins to see her own burdens in a completely different light.

Published in hardcover as Mothers & Daughters in March 2011.

Interview & Reading Guide

Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Mercy Train. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Are there any questions you've wanted to ask your mother but couldn't?
Raynat, that's a fantastic idea to write your story for your kids. I'd like to do that, too, including photos from their childhood, vacations, holidays, etc. I can self publish one for each of them, plus one to keep. These days we're lucky we can do ... - lisag

Are there books that you and your mother or children have connected over?
Hi Lisa You might find these two book club chats interesting. The first includes a bit of info on a mother-daughter book club as part of a wider book club interview. The second is with Kate McClelland of Perrot Memorial Library in Old Greenwich, ... - davinamw

Did reading this novel make you think about your own family history?
Like lisag, I thought about past generations of both sides of my family. I don't know anything about any of my ancestors beyond my grandparents (and I know very little about them). I know there must be many great stories that I'll never know. I've ... - terrio

Do you agree with Iris that women have no control over the mothers they become?
I believe women have control over how they become as mothers and many other things they control in their lives. However they don't control how their children turn out whether good nor bad even great upbringing. I also agree with many of the posts... - raynat

Do you think each of the mothers in this book represents her particular generation?
In felt that Violet, Iris and Sam were representative of their generations. Violet lived when women we beginning to get some freedoms, Iris was living in the generation that allowed a few more freedoms for women, but the role of women was still ... - arielf

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Wonderful ... A perfect book-club pick…What mothers leave daughters is loud and proud in this book…It will prime conversations about your own choices, which may change your whole sense of self, or at least make you feel not so alone." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A poignant look at three generations struggling with loss and love." - Good Housekeeping

"Tender ... perceptive ... Mothers and Daughters should appeal to both of its titular groups, and may even spark the kinds of discussions and openness so uncharacteristic of many earlier parent-child relationships." - The Capital Times

"Mothers and Daughters showcases Meadow's ability to create generations of fully formed women as they navigate life-defining moments…This is the story of how much we often don't know about the people who raise us." - Bookslut.com

"A little girl boards New York's orphan train at the turn of the 20th century and shapes generations to follow in this satisfying portrait of the many faces of motherhood." - Kirkus

"A book you'll want to sit and read straight through ... It will have you considering your own choices and those of your mother: What has she chosen not to tell you? What happened before you? What do you want to know?" - Bookpage

"An engaging story of three generations of strong women and the choices they make." - Library Journal

"Rae Meadows has written a richly textured novel of three generations of mothers and daughters who by finding each other, find themselves. In these beautifully interwoven stories of birth and death, love and loss, Violet, Iris, and Samantha explore the genetic threads that connect each to the others. Mothers and Daughters is a powerful novel of women's secrets and strength." -  Sandra Dallas, New York Times best-selling author of Prayers for Sale and Whiter Than Snow

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Daveann
Wanted it to end
I didnt care for the writing style of this book. I thought the topic of orphan trains interesting, but wanted it to go deeper. I didn't feel the book helped me to be connected to any of the women.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Dawn L Cronk
Mercy Train
I enjoyed this novel because it has so many levels. You learn about Samantha who is helping her mother as she is dying of cancer. While there she uncovers things from her grandmother's past that have a ripple affect for both Samantha and her mother Iris. The history of the Orphan train was nicely portrayed when Violet is put on it by her own mother. There are many layers to this book and I enjoyed them all. I came to care very much for these women and what they had to learn about the past in order to face the present.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by cheryls.
very enlighting
I received my complementary copy about a week ago and immediately started reading..I very much enjoyed this book.,I didn't realize that these trains actually existed...It makes you stop and think about these poor orphans, and the life they led. I understand this project was started in order to create a better life for these children, but I can also just imagine what a terrifying ordeal it was for them...I also realize that they were put into these orphanages because of the hardships the parents faced. A good read for sure, and it will make a very good book for discussion.

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Author Information

Rae Meadows Author Biography

Photo: Jefferson Wheeler

In addition to Mothers & Daughters (2011, published in paperback as Mercy Train), Rae Meadows is the author of Calling Out, which received the 2006 Utah Book Award for fiction, and No One Tells Everything, a Poets & Writers Notable Novel. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Author Interview
Link to Rae Meadows's Website

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