JULIA PARK TRACEY at Books Inc. Alameda

Author image of Julia Park Tracey and cover photo of her book The Bereaved

Books Inc. Alameda proudly welcomes Alameda County Poet Laureate Julia Park Tracey  to the shop for a celebration of her book The Bereaved!

Based on the author's research into her grandfather's past as an adopted child, and the surprising discovery of his family of origin and how he came to be adopted, Julia Park Tracey has created a mesmerizing work of historical fiction illuminating the darkest side of the Orphan Train.

In 1859, women have few rights, even to their own children. When her husband dies and her children become wards of a predator, Martha--bereaved and scared--flees their beloved country home taking the children with her to squalor of New York City. She manages to find them shelter in a tenement packed with other down-on-their-luck families and then endeavors to find work as a seamstress.

But as a naive woman alone, preyed on by male employers, she soon finds herself nearly destitute. Her children are hungry with no coal for their fire. Illness lays them low and Martha begins to lose hope.

The Home for the Friendless, an aid society, offers free food, clothing, and schooling to New York's street kids. When a cutpurse takes the last of their money, Martha reluctantly places her two boys in the Home, keeping daughter Sarah to help with the baby. Martha takes roommates into her one room, rotating her and Sarah's bed in shifts with other struggling women.

Finally, faced with prostitution and homelessness herself, Martha takes Sarah and baby Homer to the Home for what she thinks is short-term care. When her quarterly visit to her children is blocked, Martha discovers that the Society has indentured her two eldest out to work in New York and Illinois via the Orphan Train, and has placed her two youngest for permanent adoption in Ohio. Stunned at their loss, Martha begs for her children back, but the Society refuses.

Rather than succumb--the Civil War erupting around her--Martha sets out to reclaim each of them.


"...Tracey does a masterful job in this novel, developing Martha as a relatable narrator; readers will find that their spirits rise and fall with hers. For the most part, her life in the city is almost too wrenching to witness. The most painful aspect of the story, wonderfully handled by Tracey, is its depiction of the casual cruelty of the righteous folk who think they should be thanked as they break families apart. This novel is based on members of the author's own family; baby Homer became William Lozier Gaston, who's Tracey's great-great grandfather. An often painful but uplifting novel by a writer at the top of her game."-- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"In The Bereaved, Julia Park Tracey reopens America's wounds in prose that is propulsive and resonant. Martha's struggles are the stuff of classic literature. Theodore Dreiser comes to mind, but so, too, the fine contemporary novels of Jo Baker and Maggie O'Farrell." -- Christian Kiefer, author of Phantoms

"Julia Park Tracey's The Bereaved is a novel that weaves its intimately detailed characters into your soul. At once, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and absolutely beautiful, this is a story that captures the devastation of loss and the power of enduring hope." -- Lauren Hough, author of Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing

"What happens when a mother is left with no choices? In The Bereaved, Julia Park Tracey casts a stark light on an era in which hard work and devotion simply aren't enough for women trapped in poverty. Vivid, haunting, authentic, and utterly gripping, it's a beautifully written story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page." -- Ellen Meister, author of Farewell, Dorothy Parker and Dorothy Parker Drank Here

"This sumptuous, cinematic book is full of heart and concern for women's plights in this era and gets to the bottom of the Orphan Train tragedy in a way that seems just as compelling and heartless as from the children's perspective." -- Erika
Mailman, author of The Witch's Trinity

"The Bereaved, a beautifully researched novel by journalist/historian Julia Park Tracey, portrays a courageous woman who suffers similar heart-rending losses to the author's own. Based also on the struggles her third great-grandmother faced in the American Northeast during the Civil War era, Tracey's story is gritty, truthful, inspiring, and compassionate. Simply unique." -- Rebecca Lawton, author of Swimming Grand Canyon and Other Poems (2021) and What I Never Told You: Stories (2022)

"Impeccable, poetic writing. The care, respect, and fierce love for her ancestors is evident throughout The Bereaved." -- Eleanor Parker Sapia, A Decent Woman, 2021 International Latino Book Award

"Julia Park Tracey's work of historical fiction, The Bereaved, is based on the life of her third great-grandmother. Tracey's meticulous research reveals Martha's struggles to keep her young family together in such vivid detail that the reader shares her very real fears, her mounting disappointments, and finally, her heart-breaking decisions." -- Nancy Herman, author of All We Left Behind: Virginia Reed and the Donner Party



Julia Park Tracey's ancestors and their stories have given her a trail to follow from New York and New England to the deep south and the Pacific Coast. Park Tracey has three counties in California who claim her for their own: Sonoma County where she was raised; Alameda County where she was a columnist, journalist, and Poet Laureate; and Nevada County where she currently resides. She is the author or editor of six books, including two collected diaries of her aunt, a teen flapper in the Roaring Twenties. She has written for Redbook, HuffPost, The Sun, Salon, and Babble. She is also a partner and the Executive Editor at Sibylline Books.

Event date: 
Thursday, September 7, 2023 - 6:00pm
Event address: 
Books Inc.
1344 Park St
Alameda, CA 94501
The Bereaved By Julia Park Tracey Cover Image
ISBN: 9781736795422
Availability: In Stock Now - Click Title to See Store Inventory. Please allow up to 48-hours for Curbside Pickup orders to be processed.
Published: Sibylline Press - August 8th, 2023