With You Always By Jody Hedlund

After losing both her parents, German immigrant Elise Neumann, finds herself homeless and sole provider for her 2 younger sisters and 2 motherless orphans. In the late 1850’s life was harsh for women in poverty and alone. She is only 19 years old but very mature and courageous from all the suffering and adversities she has faced in her young life. They find themselves living on the streets and in dire straits. Miss Pendleton, a wealthy, Christian woman who has sold all to open a mission in the slums of lower Manhattan, invites them to live there. While the mission is better than the streets, it has not been renovated yet and is filled with filth and vermin. No matter, Elise and her sisters are grateful.
Miss Pendleton’s purpose for her ministry is to help prostitutes get off the streets and earn and honest living. She hires them as seamstresses to do work for local business. This is Elise’s trade and she begins work. Not long after, the city finds itself in severe financial straits and the work ends.
With a broken heart she is forced to leave her sisters there while she goes west to work in a new town being developed along the railroad. Little does she know the new town she is going to be employed in is part of a challenge between Thornton Quincey and his twin brother to prove who is worthy to inherit the family business from their dying father. Thornton Quincy, wealthy New York socialite, is completely at the other end of the social scale from Elise. Here their paths cross again (you have to read the book to find out how they met). She was proof you don’t’ have to be wealthy to be confident and he confirmed you don’t have to be poor to be meek. I totally enjoyed their interactions and sense of humor. Despite the vast ocean of class that divides them a seed of romance is planted.
The story is a touching example that true love knows no boundaries, and God’s plans are not limited by circumstances. While since her parent’s death and one setback after another, Elise feels God has abandoned her. Through her adversities she grows to see He has always been there. I was reminded of Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Being a huge fan of historical Christian novels, I appreciated the author’s thorough research. Being based on a true incident, Ms. Hedlund did a skillful job of fleshing out the story and characters. I had heard a lot about the orphan trains but was unaware of plight poverty-stricken women during this era. It shocked me to realize so many had to leave their children to work in the Midwest to provide for them. It seemed they jumped out of the frying pan into the fire as the employers exploited and abused them. I cannot imagine going through what these women did. An outstanding book! Can’t wait for a sequel!
I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated are my own.

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