Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

"Things never happen the way we imagine them ahead of time."

Augusta has been delivered to a grandmother that she doesn't know during the second world war. "Gusta" for short is one of many children being cared for by her grandmother. Her prized possession is a french horn and she fears that she may one day have to sell it if times get too tough. She has difficulty adjusting to her new school and feels like an outsider.

Gusta has her share of worries: her father's outspoken views about rights for workers has put him at odds with the law, her German last name rouses suspicion at school, and she misses her mother who is working hard while her father is absent.

The one thing that keeps Gusta going is the prospect of finding one of the last wishes from a little chest that her great-great grandfather sea captain had bought at a far off harbor market. After wasting most of the wishes, he saved one last wish and kept it safe. Gusta wanted to find that wish so she could bring her father back home with it.

Some of the orphans cared for by Gusta's grandmother decide to form a little band called "The Orphan Band of Springdale." Gusta loves her french horn dearly and the high school music instructor takes a special interest in her music. But hanging over that bit of joy is the knowledge that her uncle needs an operation to fix his hand that got mangled while working at the mill. Gusta in her youthful innocence believes the mill owner can be persuaded to pay for the operation.

That's when things go decidedly downhill and Gusta finds out that she has stirred a hornet's nest that will have far reaching affects. Long kept secrets come to the surface and threaten to swallow Gusta up the aftermath. She is more desperate than ever to find that wish to try to make everything come out right.

Author Anne Nesbet has created a deeply sensitive book about the anxieties that can overwhelm a child. Set during a particularly painful time in American history, Gusta sees firsthand the ugliness of prejudice and injustice. But she finds treasure in the fierce determination of her grandmother, the patient encouragement of her mother and the undying loyalty of an orphan band of friends.

I highly recommend this touching story about the impact of the war on a girl in America. I could not put it down as I was rooting so strongly for Gusta to rise above the challenges she faced. I felt a deep sadness when the book ended. Many things were resolved but not all--a fitting picture of life. Gusta was modeled after the author's mother and accurately portrays issues of the time. I am so glad that Nesbet shared the essence of her remarkable mother. I hope she will write a sequel as I'd love to learn more about how Gusta's life turned out.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Orphan Band of Springdale from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

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