Wheel of the Moon by Sandra Forrester
Did you ever wonder if all the early settlers to this country were Piligrims? Well, they weren't. In fact, some of them weren't even volunteers! In the seventeenth century, the organizers of the colonies that became the United States were often desperate to make their "experiments" work. They needed people to go to New World and work--and they didn't care if these people wanted to go or not. They just needed bodies so that they wouldn't lose money in what was really just an investment. No, not everybody who came to the Americas wanted to be here. Some were coming for religious freedom, but some came for other, much darker reasons. Some were fleeing the law; some were bored; some were helpless individuals who had no choice.
Author Sandra Forrester explores a world where orphaned children were kidnapped right off London streets and sent across the Atlantic to become indentured servants--people who worked almost as slaves in order to pay for their ship's passage. When young Pen, the daughter of a "shameless" mother who bore her out of wedlock, is orphaned at her mother's unexpected death, she is forced to live anyway she could. She falls in with other children like herself. She is lucky to be alive.
Unfortunately, Pen is just adjusting to her sad life when she, along with other orphans, is kidnapped and loaded on a boat bound for the Americas. She cannot help herself; she cannot protect herself. And she can never return to England by herself. Everything she has ever known is ripped from her as she is sent to a wilderness thousands of miles away where she knows no one and doesn't even know if she will survive. This wasn't like being sent to camp; it was forever....
What will happen to Pen? Although this is story is fiction, it is based on the stories of thousands of children who, like Pen, were taken from the only world they had ever known, never to return. It is a fascinating look at an "illegal immigrant" problem that few know about. The book is rather slow going, but that only works to show just how dark a world this really was.