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Reviewed by Raanan Geberer for Readers' Favorite
Walls For The Wind by Alethea Williams is a look at life in the Old West from a different perspective — the perspective of children and teenagers who were brought there in the famous “orphan trains.” As the book begins, Kit Calhoun, herself an orphan who was rescued from the streets as a young child, is satisfied with her work as assistant to the patrician Rev. Ignatius Howe, proprietor of a New York City orphanage. But change is in the wind. Because there are so many orphans, Rev. Howe decides to send some of them west on the orphan trains operated by the Children’s Aid Society. The trains need a female escort, so he asks Kit to go along. Soon, Kit becomes a regular on the trains, traveling back and forth. She finds out that the farmers are less interested in adopting the orphans than in using them as farm workers. Eventually, Kit, with several of the orphans, leaves her work and decides to become a part of the great American movement westward on her own.
In Walls For The Wind, Alethea Williams proves herself a master of description. She is as adept at describing the moralistic, religion-oriented world of the Rev. Howe’s Manhattan orphanage as she is in describing rough-and-ready boom towns of the West such as Julesburg, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Many of the details she describes are left out of the typical Western story, such as how exploitative newspaper reporters accompanied the railroads west, hoping to feed juicy stories of frontier life to their readers back East. All in all, Williams clearly has a real feeling for the West, as befits someone who has lived in Wyoming most of her life. For a fresh take on the Old West, be sure to read Walls For The Wind.