Christina Baker Kline
4 / 5
"I believe in ghosts. They're the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind."
Orphan Train is a gripping story of friendship and second chances from Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be.
Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse...
As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.
Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.
"I've come to think that's what heaven is--a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on." - Kline, The Orphan Train
This book was recommended by my dad, so I put it on hold at the public library because we have similar taste in books. (Good taste, of course!) I wasn't certain what to expect from the book, even though I apparently had added it in my TBR list on Goodreads. But the combination of my own interest and my father's convinced me it was worth checking out. And, I ended up really enjoying it!
The main story - that of an Orphan Train rider - is framed by another, modern-day story of a girl who is also an orphan, and has been bounced around from foster home to foster home. Currently 17, Molly is in what she hopes is her last fostering situation, but she gets caught stealing and is at the mercy of the system yet again. However, her boyfriend intervenes on her behalf and convinces everyone that it is a better idea for her to do community service helping out a local woman than for Molly to be sent to juvie. So she begins what sounds like the boring job of cleaning out an elderly woman's attic. Turns out, though, that Molly and Vivian have a lot in common, and the women soon bond over their stories.
Molly's story was less intriguing to me, but Vivian's was fascinating to read. A young Irish immigrant, she was orphaned at a young age and taken in by this society which took children off the streets of New York City and brought them out to the midwest via train, offering them up for adoption at every stop. I had never heard of this phenomenon before, but it was a very real (and apparently reasonable) thing in the early 1900s. Alone and left to fend for themselves in a new world, the children were often abused, used as workhorses, neglected by the Aid Society. Few were lucky enough to find a happy family experience, and usually those who did were the babies. Anyone over a few years old was generally taken on as free labor. It sounds like an awful experience, and Kline really wrote it well. Vivian lived through some serious hells, but found her own happinesses, and her story was an amazing and charming read. And while I wasn't Molly's biggest fan, I did enjoy the way the two women bonded over their common life experiences and became quite close.
I don't feel as if I am expressing how much I enjoyed this book well enough. I don't think anything but reading can really do it justice. So please, when you want a relatively light but enchanting read, pick this one up.
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