This week I read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.
About Orphan Train• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Christina Baker Kline’s #1 New York Times bestselling novel—the captivating story of a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to long-buried questions…now with an extended scene that addresses the number one question readers ask, and an excerpt from Kline’s upcoming novel A Piece of the World.
“A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of America’s history. Beautiful.”—Ann Packer
Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?
As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.
Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, and unexpected friendship.
Photo by Jerry Bauer
About Christina Baker KlineChristina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives out-side of New York City and on the coast of Maine. Find out more about Kline at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
Orphan Train is a book that moved me to tears. Christina Baker Kline depicts a rarely talked about chapter in American history: the orphan trains. These trains transported orphans from East Coast cities to the Midwest from before the Civil War up until the Great Depression. Vivian, whose Irish birth name is Niamh (pronounced Neev), represents the fates of these children as she has three placements from bad, to hideous, to safe and comfortable. She can relate to Molly's circumstances because children in the foster care system never know what to expect: Their fates are often determined by the whims of foster parents and social workers.
As Molly helps Vivian organize her possessions stored in her attic, Vivian shares her life as they open each trunk or box. Molly decides to record Vivian's stories for a history project for school, and quickly the community service hours she's earning by helping Vivian organize her attic and the history project become less work and more fun.
In spite of their age difference, Vivian and Molly form a friendship based on more than their shared sadness and abandonment. They soon trust each other with secrets never shared with others, and both seek to find answers to questions from their pasts and look ahead to brighter futures. I think this is a big deal for both women because children in foster care often live in the present: The past is too painful, and the future is so uncertain. Children who make it through the system with closure for the past and optimism and hope for the future are truly the fortunate ones.
Orphan Train is a quick read, and I highly recommend it. It will keep you engrossed the entire time you read it.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Orphan Train from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Until next time...