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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Home for Friendless Children: Finding Hope, Joy, and a Place in the World by C.L. Olsen is a non-fiction memoir detailing a life of survival that transcends into one of true living. Olsen writes in the first person, but the narrative is actually that of her husband, Rob, a little boy who is introduced alongside his earliest memory, setting the tone for a childhood of near-perpetual trauma. Rob is one of several children from a father who left his wife and kids to fend for themselves and a mother who cannot find enough solid footing to raise any of them. Rob, his brothers, and two sisters, who are ultimately removed from his life for decades, are left picking up the pieces with varying degrees of success.
C.L. Olsen does an excellent job of giving her husband a voice in The Hope for Friendless Children. There is a profound innocence in the early chapters of storytelling that genuinely does sound like a child’s narration. With years and, in the case of the memoir, pages that translate into years, the narrative matures. Rob is unquestionably an individual who in his youth had socio-economic disadvantages, and his ability to rise above them is fortunate. Others are not so fortunate, not for want of trying but for the degree to which a child can be hardened. There is a misconception that individuals “choose” not to elevate beyond traumatic childhoods out of a lack of grit—which is absolutely false—but reading about one person who found strength always gives me the warm fuzzies. Recommended.