books

Mercy Train

Named an Outstanding Achievement by the Wisconsin Library Association 

Also published in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands

Samantha’s mother has been dead for a year when the box arrives on her doorstep. In it, she finds relics of her mother Iris’s past. But as Sam sifts through these keepsakes, 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 different light. Moving from contemporary Madison, Wisconsin, to the seedy underbelly of New York in 1900, 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 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 women, and the surprising sacrifices we make for the people we love.

Praise & Reviews:

“Rae Meadows is at the very top of her game in this incredibly honest and often heartbreaking novel.”
– Emma Straub author of Other People We Married

“A poignant look at three generations struggling with loss and love.”
Good Housekeeping

“Rae Meadows explores three women of one matriarchal line—their relationships, their hidden lives, and their secrets. …Outstanding.”
Book Reporter

“Meadows masters the nuances in marriage and family relationships with sensitivity, subtlety and striking accuracy. I come away from this relatively short book having experienced a broad range of emotion with its characters, from the heady surprising love of one’s baby to a late-blooming romance, to the slow simmer (and all that that implies) of companionship, to the complex comforts of long marriage and between siblings, and disappointment, confusion, loathing, grief, guilt, rivers of unspoken longing, wrenching pity and hope. An unforgettable story. You must read Mercy Train, by Rae Meadows.”
– Eugenia Kim, author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter

“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 Reviews

“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?”
The Book Page

“Tender…perceptive…Mercy Train 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

Mercy Train 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

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

“This slim volume moved me to tears even though it does not succumb to sentimentality. Rather Rae Meadows triumphs in distilling three unique lives to their universal essence and expresses the deep need we all have for the loving bonds of a mother, no matter how imperfect and fragile these ties may be.”
Wichita Public Radio

“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. Mercy Train 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