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Adrift in New York

Adrift in New York by Horatio Alger, Jr.
By: (1832-1899)

Set in 19th century New York, this is the story of a wealthy old man who adopts his orphaned nephew and niece after his own four year old son mysteriously disappears. However, under a smooth exterior, the nephew is a conniving and avaricious villain who wants to grab all the old man's wealth for himself. This is also the story of a young boy, who doesn't know he's the sole heir to a fabulous fortune, but grows up homeless in the streets of New York. The villainous nephew proposes marriage to his cousin with a view to grabbing the entire inheritance. The story takes several twists and turns before it reaches its unexpected conclusion.

Adrift in New York was published in 1900. It is one of the 135 novels written by Horatio Alger Jr., an extremely prolific writer of young adult literature. Most of his books were centered on boys in poor circumstances who rise above them through hard work, honesty, courage and determination. Another important theme in all his books is how a stroke of luck or a fortuitous meeting with a rich, older philanthropist changes the life of his young hero.

Alger was born in a relatively well to do family with strong roots in the Church. His ancestors were early New England settlers who were among the founding fathers of America. Alger Sr. was a Unitarian minister who hoped that his son would follow him into the ministry, but financial troubles soon compelled young Horatio to abandon these plans. He finished school and went up to Harvard, where he did extremely well academically. By this time he had begun writing and was submitting poems and short pieces to local newspapers and magazines. After college, he returned home with few work prospects. Circumstances forced him to take up an editing job which he hated. In less than a year, he left to begin teaching at a boys' boarding school. He continued writing novels, which were told from a woman's point of view. He drifted between different careers, and finally retired to New York, where he wrote his first bestseller, Ragged Dick. A life of relative ease and wealth began and he adopted several street boys whom he guided into successful careers. He continued to write almost formulaic novels centered round the rags-to-riches theme.

Adrift in New York was extremely popular in its time, like most of Alger's novels. At one time, Alger's fame rivaled that of Mark Twain's in the American imagination. Though hardly known or read now, Alger's novels are interesting and make a very pleasant read.

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