Marieta's Retirement Ramblings

“For the Love of Pete” by Ethel Barker


Subtitle: “An Orphan Train Story”

Ethel obviously did her research as she prepared to write this historically accurate account. Because of the author’s skilled character development, the reader easily identifies with Iris, Rosie and Pete as they experience the streets of New York City, an orphanage, the train ride westward, and some ominous family situations in which they find themselves in Iowa.

Considered “Young Adult/Historical Fiction” this book is an easy-to-read, page turner. Readers are surprised with unexpected twists and turns in the plot, which should hold the attention of the intended audience, as well as those of us in older generations.

Other strengths of this novel include the appropriateness of the language of the characters and the author’s attention to all kinds of detail.

I rarely read fiction, so it was a stretch for me to finally open the pages of this book. The author’s husband, Ed, is a distant relative of mine. I don’t know either Ethel or Ed, but I know Ed’s two brothers quite well. So, when one of those brothers was selling her book, I felt I needed to buy it. Then, it took me a couple months for this book to reach the top of my “to read” stack. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Then, my husband had the same experience. We both read it in less than a week… in between our many other activities.

This story has “staying” power. I keep thinking about the orphan train children and the myriad of good and not-so-good, sometimes downright ugly, situations following that westward train ride… over which the children had virtually no control.

Thanks, Ethel!


Barker, Ethel. For the Love of Pete. North Liberty, Iowa: Ice Cube Press, LLC, 2012.