In this collection of memories, the author chronicles the lives of more than 50 former residents of North Carolina’s Thompson Orphanage while attempting to make the case that orphanages were a better way of helping children in need than the current foster care system.
The author went to live at the orphanage, along with her sisters, at the age of 11 after her father died and her mother became very ill. She writes that life at the orphanage was “very fulfilling” and over the years she has kept in touch with many of the alumni, prompting her to share their stories. Many echo her sentiment, painting a picture of an idyllic life where afternoons were spent swimming in a lake on the farm and Easter meant a shopping trip with “Mom Whisnant” for a special outfit.
But while some have fond memories of a warm, safe place in the care of loving house parents, others recall a much harsher environment. A 16-year-old was “campused” on her birthday for ironing her shirt wrong, and three teens who had called the orphanage home for most of their lives were kicked out for sneaking out after lights out.
The material is often repetitious, such as the various recountings of Alumni Day and the belief that children in foster care get “lost” or “fall through the cracks.” And while the author includes unpleasant recollections, the focus tends to be skewed toward the author’s personal view that orphanages are good, loving places, where even paddlings are “administered with love.”
Memories of Thompson Orphanage contains a few minor editing errors, but it is generally professionally written in a voice true to the time period. Its strength is in the way it paints a clear picture of an era far different from the one we know today. The book will most likely be enjoyed by readers who have an interest in this type of recent history, or have personal experience or interest in orphanages.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.