MacColl, Michaela. Rory's Promise.
September 1st 2014
by Calkins Creek Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Rory has tried to make herself useful at the Catholic foundling home where she lives so that she can continue to be near her younger sister, Violet. The two ended up there after the death of both parents. When the nuns decide that Violet, at age five, is at the right age to be adopted, they plan on putting her on an orphan train to Arizona, but Rory (at 12) is too old to follow and is given options for remaining at the home and working. Not happy with this, Rory runs away and ends up in jail, where she meets Brigid. A street child and thief, Brigid is also going to be sent on an orphan train, but under much more stressful circumstances-- she can be adopted by anyone who wants a child, whereas Violet is going to a prescreened Catholic family. Brigid helps get Rory on to the train that Violet is on, and Rory hides for a bit until she reveals herself to the nuns. Sister Anna in particular is furious-- she cares for Rory, but has to part for so many of the children in her care that she must be callous and follow the rules. The trip to Arizona is stressful, and Rory makes herself useful, hoping that the family taking Violet will also take her. When the group arrives, however, they find that circumstances are not what were anticipated. The mining town has a high rate of infertility, so the women are desperate for children. The priest in charge speaks only French, and has placed all of the (primarily of Irish descent) children with Mexican families because they are Catholic. The Anglo American residents are furious and try to kidnap the children, but Rory likes Elena and Ramon, who are to adopt Violet, and tries to help the Catholic families keep the children. She is only partially successful because the whole situation is a complete mess and even the nuns and their agent are unable to do much against the residents, who control the entire town. While things end happily for Rory and her sister, it's unclear how things will go for the other children.
Strengths: I was leery of this book at first, but it got so many good reviews from people I trust that I had to take a look. I ended up liking it very much. There is enough action and adventure to keep readers happy, and Rory is an extremely appealing character. Based on an actual event, the historical details are fantastic, and even though Rory is Irish American, there is a lot of interesting information about the treatment of Mexican Americans in the US in the early 1900s. Good notes and resources at the end.
Weaknesses: The ending of this slowed down a bit for me when the Anglo American residents and the nuns were fighting about the children. I know that the author tried to follow the actual events, but the book would have ended with more of a bang if the fictional account would have been streamlined a bit.