Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review - Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Book Synopsis
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.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon

My Review

Orphan Train tells the story of Vivian, an elderly woman living in Maine.  As a young woman, she traveled to Minnesota on an orphan train.   By chance she meets Molly, a young girl in foster care who comes to the house to help her sort through the attic.  The attic is full of a lifetime of memories.  As they sort through the boxes there, Vivian and Molly bond over their common experiences, many years apart.

This is a unique novel.  It is a historical novel, since much of the narrative happens in the 1920's - 1930's.  However, there are also sections of the book that take place in the present day, sorting out the past.  I loved the structure of the book. 

I found both Vivian and Molly sympathetic characters, and I really became engrossed in their stories.  I especially was eager to read about Vivian's life.  Orphan trains were new to me before this book, and the historical details were fascinating.

The writing is beautiful and it makes Orphan Train a joy to read.  For instance: 

"Vivian has returned to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments  They're with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend.  They rise up through the pavement;  we absorb them through our sole" (p. 117).  

Orphan Train, at heart, is a novel about love and connections between people, about how small incidents can change a life, how compassion can change people.  I cannot say enough about what a lovely read this is.  I started reading it on a Saturday night and stayed up into the wee hours reading because I could not put the book down.  I felt I was living the story;  it was that engrossing.

I am certain that Orphan Train will be one of my favorite reads this year.  I recommend it very highly for fans of historical fiction, book group discussions, and anyone who loves a beautifully crafted story.  Five stars! 

Author Bio
Christina 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.

I received this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

The fact that orphan trains really are a part of our history just boggles my mind. It is fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

trish said...

Your review gave me chills! I love books that show human connections and how important it is to be compassionate to others. I feel like they make me a better human being. :)