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Orphan Train

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2013)
This is an alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780061950728, found here.

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: 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 questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers 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.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, 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 is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

278 pages, Paperback

First published April 2, 2013

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About the author

A #1 New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including The Exiles, Orphan Train, and A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline is published in 40 countries. Her novels have received the New England Prize for Fiction, the Maine Literary Award, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, among other prizes, and have been chosen by hundreds of communities, universities and schools as “One Book, One Read” selections. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in publications such as the New York Times and the NYT Book Review, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, LitHub, Psychology Today, Poets & Writers, and Salon.

Born in England and raised in the American South and Maine, Kline is a graduate of Yale (B.A.), Cambridge (M.A.) and the University of Virginia (M.F.A.), where she was a Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing. A resident of New York City and Southwest Harbor, Maine, she serves on the advisory boards of the Center for Fiction (NY), the Jesup Library (Bar Harbor, ME), the Montclair Literary Festival (NJ), the Kauai Writers Festival (HI), and Roots & Wings (NJ), and on the gala committees of Poets & Writers (NY), The Authors Guild (NY) and Friends of Acadia (ME). She is an Artist-Mentor for StudioDuke at Duke University and the BookEnds program at Stony Brook University.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 31,607 reviews
Profile Image for Rachel.
27 reviews42 followers
December 3, 2013
As a Midwesterner, I was really interested in this book after hearing it featured on NPR. However, it was ruined by a small, and to some, insignificant character and narrative. The main narrative about Vivian, an Orphan Train rider, was excellent. The second narrative of Molly, a teen foster child, is marred by the way the author, Christina Baker Kline, portrays her oppressive foster mom.

"...Dina listens to conservative talk radio, belongs to a fundamentalist Christian church, and has a "Guns don't kill people--abortion clinics do" bumper sticker on her car...Dina is constantly rolling her eyes, muttering under her breath about Molly's various infractions--didn't put away her laundry...all of which are part and parcel of the liberal agenda that's ruining this country..." (Page 48).

"Dina says, 'Oh, how the mighty have fallen...It's sad what happens to people, y'know?...Terry Gallant used to be Miss Popular. Homecoming Queen and all that. That she got knocked up by some Mexican scrub--and now look at her, she's a maid.'" (Page 130).

These are just a few examples of the egregious stereotypes Baker Kline embodies in one character. It's the most shallow character I've encountered in a long time, and, as an English teacher, I read mostly Young Adult novels. This could've been such a highly esteemed literary novel if she hadn't let her personal agenda abound in this minor character and second narrative. A character analysis of the foster mom is incredibly simple to sketch: white, Christian, conservative, meat-eating-vegetarian hater, petty, shallow, ungrateful, judgmental, racist. She's especially easy to hate because Molly, her foster daughter, is so easy to sympathize with. It seems awfully judgmental and petty given one of the themes is not to pass judgment so quickly. Obviously, Baker Kline has her own judgments she couldn't leave out of this novel.

I'm so tired of the judgmental subtlety authors creep into otherwise great works. Baker Kline, your agenda did not go unnoticed, and I will not be recommending this book. You took a powerful literary and historical narrative and choked it with a judgmental and shallow second narrative of your own agenda.i
Profile Image for Marla Mutch.
85 reviews38 followers
April 20, 2013
When I was 16 my Great Aunt Pauline told me the saddest true story. I asked her about her background, she was of Polish decent in a completely German town in Washington State. She told me that when her family came over from Poland her mother had pink eye, and was sent back to Poland to try again. She was pregnant and when she got back, she had a child that was not listed on the papers. She put the baby in a suitcase to keep the officials at Ellis Island from finding her and separating her again. That baby was Pauline. They went out west, and her mother died several years later in child birth. Pauline remembered being set out on the porch with her younger siblings, the babies in a laundry basket, and her father standing on the porch as people came by to pick out who they wanted. She was older and chosen last and by a couple with a different language and moved to this area she ended up in. She said, "They picked us out as if we were puppies in a basket. I am not a puppy in a basket." I am crying just remembering the pain in her voice when she told me this. She told me she didn't see any of her siblings until she was an adult, and that the couple trained her in how to be a good worker. What a childhood for one of the sweetest women I ever knew. I wish I had recorded her story, asked more questions, there is never enough time. This book told a similar tale, and I could not put it down. It rang so true. Read it!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
April 25, 2016
"In my nightmares I am alone on a train, heading into the wilderness. Or in a maze of hay bales. Or walking the streets of a big city, gazing at lights in every window, seeing the families inside, none of them mine."

After my book club chose Orphan Train for our next meet-up, I picked up my copy and started reading just a little of the first page to get a "feel" for what the book would be like. I didn't intend to finish it right now, or even read any more than the first page, but I somehow ended up getting completely sucked into this story for the last few hours.

Firstly, it is a page turner. The pages just flew past as I devoured this story about two very different women who find they have a lot more in common than they could have imagined. It switches between the present day (2011) and the 1920s/30s, and it manages to be horrifying enough to hook you, but ultimately uplifting and charming.

The best kind of historical fiction, in my opinion, is that which introduces you to little pieces of history you'd never known about. I knew that many Irish immigrants arrived in the United States in the 1920s, hoping for a fresh start and a better life, but often received a less than warm welcome. What I didn't know, is that many orphaned children from crowded Eastern cities were boarded onto trains and taken to rural areas of the Midwest.

Families looking for servants, farm labourers, or occasionally more children would come check out the orphans and see if they wanted to take them home. In this book, Vivian is an orphaned Irish immigrant at just nine years old, and she finds herself on one of the orphan trains. The 1920s/30s part of this book tells the story of her life, being moved from one family to the next in Minnesota. In the present, she is a 91 year-old woman with an attic full of painful memories.

So what could she possibly have in common with a bratty teenage goth girl? Well, quite a bit actually.

Molly is in the foster care system and knows her current family only keep her for the extra money they receive. She rebels constantly: with her image, with her attitude and, finally, by stealing a book from the local library and earning herself some community service. That community service turns out to be helping an old lady clear out her attic.

As Vivian's story is revealed, the relationship between the two of them grows. I admit that I felt so much more sympathy for Vivian, though I did understand the importance of Molly's story too. Vivian deals with being constantly unwanted, being underfed, living in a farmhouse without any heating through the winter, and the leery eyes of her foster father. I felt sorry for Molly at times, but she was bratty and not easy to like, though I still quite enjoyed the insight into her mind. Like this:
"But it kind of feels nice to nurture her resentment, to foster it. It’s something she can savor and control, this feeling of having been wronged by the world."

I do think that things felt a little rushed toward the end. A lot seemed to happen in a short space of time, presumably because the main story had already been told and the author was just tying up loose ends. But, overall, that didn't bother me much. I really enjoyed this book; both the emotional journey and the history lesson. And I have to say, in a world that loves sword-wielding heroines no older than 21 and pretty-faced broody boys, it’s refreshing to see such an interesting and fleshed out elderly character.

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Profile Image for Jennifer.
47 reviews7 followers
April 12, 2015
Before I became a foster/adoptive parent, I would have ranked this book much higher. But it rankled that yet another novel characterizes a foster mom as racist, shrill, emotionally abusive, and selfish. Oh, and the foster parents are just in it for the money.

And of course Molly is just misunderstood, with no serious behavioral problems or alienating qualities. Except for a nose ring (gasp!), and a tendency to steal high-brow literature (oh my!).

And of course, everyone ends up happy and joyful on the final page--with the message that all the trauma and strife was a necessary part of the story, required to bring them to this place of understanding. Yuck--oversimplified and naive.

Edited to add: many people in the comments have told me, in no uncertain terms, to get over it. That the foster care system is horrible, that the book is from Molly's perspective, that I'm extrapolating. And maybe I am particularly sensitive about the foster mom. However, I stand by my initial opinion that the characters are flat, over-simplified tropes. The foster mom is horrible. The foster dad is weak. The foster girl is just misunderstood. The old rich lady is the perfect savior. While I enjoyed the historical story about the orphan train (which is why I didn't give it 1 star), the modern day counterpart seemed like it was slapped on at the last minute, using every available stereotype to awkward and absurd effect.

TL;DR: The modern day half of the story is poorly written.
Profile Image for Diane Yannick.
569 reviews750 followers
October 5, 2014
I find the orphan trains to be an interesting/horrifying time in our history. I thought this book would give me a deeper understanding of what it was like to be a child enslaved by this plan concocted by the Children's Aid Society. Instead, I found this to be a fluffy, shallow story chock full of huge stereotypes. Let's see, we have the sexually perverted foster dad, the Goth girl, the upstanding drafted man, the 91 year old lady who hoarded her life in the attic. Each character was painted with broad strokes that created no space for this reader to wonder or develop compassion.

The two narratives did not work for me at all. Although it was very easy to keep the stories straight, neither story was compelling. Both story lines were painfully predictable. The events which allowed the plot to plod along were often ridiculous. Molly (modern day character) had to do 50 hours of community service for stealing a battered copy of Jane Eyre from the library?? That's how she met Vivian who needed her attic cleaned out? That's how the stories eventually merged?

All of the characters' personal epiphanies seemed forced. Vivian reflects that "the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting 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 soles." Overwrought, in my opinion.

Another author to cross off my list. However, she has plenty of fans who will continue to absorb her words right through their soles.
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews654 followers
November 8, 2015

The real truth behind this wonderful story is actually quite awful in magnitude. Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,00 homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent to the Midwest: ostensibly for adoption but often more became indentured servitude, to people who wanted a worker rather than a child. It is a little known fact of America's history and one I knew nothing about. I love it when an author sends me hurrying to Google in order to learn more about certain facts I've learned from their books. Christina Baker Kline has definitely achieved that here: how could I possibly finish the novel and not need to know more about these orphan trains. Kline very courteously relays many other facts and her sources in the Acknowledgements including photographs; the little bootblack of New York 1924 particularly brought tears to my eyes. I finished the book at midnight and spent another two hours on the internet searching and reading information on the orphan trains. My thoughts: In child welfare, we should never rest on the laurels of our success stories, we should chastise ourselves for our failures.

Molly and Vivian have both been failed by the system. A very unlikely friendship arises out of a need. In 2011, 17yo Molly needs to do fifty hours community service and 91yo Vivian need someone to help organise her attic. As they sort through the attic, Molly begins taping the story of Vivian's portage (what she carried with her) for a school assignment. Different items signify certain people and events in Vivian's long and interesting life. 1927 begins the 7yo Vivian's story; her family has been helped obtain a passage from Ireland to America but New York is no pot of gold and the family struggles; in 1929, there's a fire and Vivian loses the family she loves. Taken to a Children's Aid Society orphanage, she soon finds herself boarded on an orphan train bound for Minnesota where prospective 'parents' will choose a child they want. After two less than advantageous placements, Vivian's luck changes and a happy life finally begins for her. But, as Molly will learn, it is still not all plain sailing for Vivian.

Penobscot Indian Molly's story begins in 2011: a father deceased, mother a drug addict, she's been in more foster homes than you can poke a stick at, countless schools where she never fits in and she's developed a tough Goth exterior in order to survive. A theft sees her with the choice of either juvie or community service. She meets Vivian through her boyfriend and this very unlikely friendship follows. As Molly discovers, she and Vivian have more in common than she would have ever thought and they can both provide something very special for each other. People need to tell their stories; it is often a matter of waiting for the right audience.

The Children's Aid Society, to me, is a misnomer; I wonder how many of these children actually had advantageous placements. The Society may have had the best of intentions but the children may have lost more than they gained in this venture. Prospective parents checked their eyes, limbs, inside their mouths; sounds more like they are inspecting cattle rather than children. Although Kline does acknowledge that in talking to and reading oral histories of these orphans:

they tended not to dwell on the considerable hardships.....they focused on how grateful they were for their children etc - lives that would have not been possible if they had not been on those trains.” That is comforting to hear.

Kline alternately weaves two not dissimilar stories together very competently. She is not overly emotive in language, rather leaving the story itself to draw the emotion from you. And, dare I say, it would be only a very cold person who is not affected by this story. Strangely, considering the subject, it is not a depressing novel; moreover, it's about tenacity, it is about people hanging on to hope when hope is the only thing they have left, it is one of inspiring and lasting friendships. Kline is brilliant in that she doesn't just tell a story sourced from historical fact; she provides you with the fact in her eight pages of not in the least bit boring Acknowledgements complete with photographs. I commend her for bringing history to our notice.

You know, the elderly have the most wonderful stories to tell, if only we would take the time to listen. This is a novel I would not hesitate to recommend to all readers. 4★

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 24, 2022
Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train, highlights the real-life story of the orphan trains that between 1854 and 1929 carried thousands of orphaned, abandoned, and destitute children from the East Coast to the Midwest.

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.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «‏‫یتیمی در قطار‬‬»؛ «قطار یتیمان»؛ «هیزم‌های خیس»؛ نویسنده: کریستینا بیکر کلاین، تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز دهم ماه فوریه سال2018میلادی

عنوان: ‏‫یتیمی در قطار‬‬؛ نویسنده: کریستینا بیکر کلاین، مترجم: نجمه عسکری؛ ‏‫تهران، نشر‏‫: اوحدی‬‏‫، سال1393هـ.خ = سال2015م؛ در550ص؛ شابک9786006544243؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م

عنوان: قطار یتیمان؛ نویسنده: کریستینا بیکر کلاین؛ مترجم: زهرا طراوتی؛ کرج، نشر دُرّ دانش بهمن‏‫، سال1395؛ در312؛ شابک9789641741787؛

عنوان: قطار یتیمان؛ نویسنده: کریستینا‌ بیکر کلاین؛ مترجم: شهلا عزیزی؛ تهران، نشر داستان‏‫، سال1395؛ در356ص؛ شابک9786008382034؛

عنوان: ‏‫قطار یتیمان‮‬‏‫؛ نویسنده: کریستینا‌ بیکر کلاین‮‬‏‫؛ مترجم مریم طباطبائیها؛ تهران، نشر نفیر، سال1395؛ در285ص؛ شابک9786009641659؛

عنوان: هیزم‌های خیس؛ نویسنده: کریستینا بیکر کلاین؛ مترجم آناهیتا حضرتی؛ ویراستار شهرام بزرگی؛ تهران، نشر پرتقال‏‫‬، چاپهای اول تا سوم سال1397؛ در222ص؛ شابک9786004622981؛

کریستینا بیکر کلاین، در رمان «قطار یتیمان» دو شخصیت کاملا دیگرگونه را در کنار هم قرار داده اند؛ نخست پیرزنی نودویک ساله، بازمانده ی فقر و زندگی روستایی، دختر فقیر مهاجری از «ایرلند»، که به «نیویورک» می‌آید، و ماجراهایی را از سر می‌گذراند، و دیگری دختر امروزین پرورشگاهی، که به دشواری می‌تواند گذشته و حال زندگی‌ خویش را بپذیرد، ....؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 02/03/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Jules.
110 reviews4 followers
December 3, 2013
I was going to say this book reads like a YA novel, but then I realized that is an insult to some really well-written YA novels (The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird, Flowers for Algernon...)

Like many other readers, I thought the book had potential with a very interesting subject (orphan trains), but the writing was amateurish, with incredibly stereotypical characters, a predictable plot and way too much sentimentality. I doubted throughout the book that the author had any firsthand experience with orphans, Native Americans or the modern day foster care system. (If she does, it did not come through in her writing.) The plot lines wrapped up so neatly that I thought I was watching a Hallmark Channel movie for a minute.

On the plus side, I commend the author for choosing a subject that is not well known to many people. I live in Minnesota, where many of the orphans in the book found homes after leaving the train, and I was not familiar with this history at all.
Profile Image for elena ❀.
259 reviews2,878 followers
June 18, 2022
I leave four children I could not help and did not love. I leave a place of degradation and squalor, the likes of which I will never experience again. And I leave any last shred of my childhood on the rough planks of that living room floor.

The Orphan Train Movement was a regulated government assistance program that shipped stranded and homeless children from swarmed Eastern urban communities of the United States to cultivate homes found to a great extent in rustic regions of the Midwest. The vagrant trains worked somewhere in the range of 1854 and 1929, migrating around 200,000 stranded and destitute children.

Three foundations, Children's Village, the Children's Aid Society, and later, the New York Foundling Hospital, tried to help these children. The establishments were upheld by well off benefactors and worked by proficient staff. The three foundations built up a program that set homeless, oprhaned, and abandoned city kids, who numbered an expected 30,000 in New York City alone during the 1850s, in encourage homes all through the nation. The children were moved to their new homes on trains that were marked "vagrant trains" or "child trains". This movement finished during the 1920s with the start of foster child care in America.

Time constricts and flattens, you know. It’s not evenly weighted. Certain moments linger in the mind and others disappear.

The beauty of historical fiction is the ability it has to make you aware of some point in history that you may not be aware about. The only other historical fiction book I've read that opened my eyes to a new point in history I didn't know about was The Girl They Left Behind: As many as 380,000 Jews were massacred in Romanian-controlled territories between October 1940 until the end of World War II. During the Bucharest Pogrom, thousands of Jews were dragged into the streets and were tortured and killed.

Christina Baker Kline notes that the breadth and scope of the orphan train movement transported a reported two hundred and fifty thousand children from the East Coast to the Midwest between 1854 and 1929. Majority of these kids were Irish and Catholic who were orphaned and either placed in the hands of a caring and loving family, or placed in the hands of a family who forced them to do hard labour work. The latter applies to Vivian, a 91-year-old, who is the narrator of her story as she tells it to Molly, a troubled teen who needs to complete 50 hours of community service due to being caught for stealing a book from the library. Molly, with the help of her boyfriend, agrees to help Vivian clean her attic to get her hours completed instead of going to juvie, and as the two begin looking through Vivian's memories and collections, Vivian's story as an orphan girl and as an orphan train child begins to unfold, starting from when she was in Ireland with her family, up to when the immigrated to New York City, to when Vivian was first handed to her first family, then her second, and finally, her third. Throughout the novel, we see how much Vivian has suffered and gone through, how she was taken as a worker and laborer without being given the proper treatment a child needs, and it's heartbreaking.

I'm kind of on the minority here. Although this is a best seller, I've seen enough reviews stating how they were uninterested in the shifting pov's, and how Molly's character arc was not developed, or how the reader was unable to become invested in the story and characters, but I was thoroughly invested in the story, Vivian, and Molly. Molly, in particular, stole my heart from the very beginning. She was feared and seen as weird because of how she dressed and acted. She was the type of person I wish I was friends with during high school.

Although we don't know how much she has gone through, there is enough detail about her to get an idea. She's been from one family to another, she's been slapped, malnourished, mistreated, and many more, and it gives the reader the idea of how much she has actually suffered even without providing too much detail. I felt bad for Molly, not just because of her foster family situation but because of how she was seen. Her mixed Native American background was not throughly discussed in detail, but clearly it was part of her. She had no one but her dad to rely on for understanding her Indigenous side, and it clearly made a negative impact when he died and left her with only her mother. Her mother then becomes addicted and abusive, ending up in jail. Molly deserved so much better, and I was glad for how she finally stood up for herself during situations that enraged her.

In Mr. Reed’s classroom there’s a photo of Molly Molasses taken near the end of her life. In it she sits ramrod straight, wearing a beaded, peaked headdress and two large silver brooches around her neck. Her face is dark and wrinkled and her expression is fierce. Sitting in the empty classroom after school one day, Molly stares at that face for a long time, looking for answers to questions she doesn’t know how to ask.

Orphan Train is mostly about Vivian, and although she doesn't narrate the entire story to us (only begins to do so when she tells Molly about it for her paper), it is a heartbreaking story. I cried, I gagged, I smiled, and I laughed. I was really interested in hearing and learning about Vivian's story, and in my opinion, Christina delivered it in a very efficient way.

There was so much that happened to Vivian that broke my heart. She's poor in Ireland with her family, unable to care for herself and help her mother with her baby sister. They migrate to the US, get to New York, and three days later, her family dies in a fire. She's then placed in the Children's Aid Society with other kids who are also poor, have been abandoned, have been abused, or are homeless. She meets new people, cares for new kids, and becomes a part of three different families. I wished for Vivian to finally get into the hands of a loving family, and I wished for the time she would finally be able to sleep without fearing who was watching her, eat without having restrictions, sleep without having to ask, and live freely without worrying. While I knew something good would finally come into place, I was always rooting for her.

I don’t want to go into another home where I’m treated like a servant, tolerated only for the labor I can provide.

One of the best things about this novel is that it is so natural to follow, and how fast it felt now and again. Christina was very descriptive, allowing me to imagine the story as I read, and that is always something I appreciate. She gives endless insights concerning the characters and the spots that I had the option to envision the story in my mind. The story is also quick to breeze through, since the writing is easy to follow, which made the story a page-turner. Since I was really curious to continue learning more about Vivian and seeing what would happen next, there wasn't a point of boredom in this story. More or so, it was a very captivating one, and I'm really curious and eager to read Kline's other works.

One of the other things that added to the emotions of this story was the prejudice against the Irish immigrants. Admittedly, I didn't know much about the Irish and their history. I learned a little about them during my second semester of my first year of college, specifically about the times many of them migrated to the US. In Orphan Train, Vivian is seen as inferior for being Irish. Her red hair, Catholic religion, accent, pale skin, and viewable freckles are what people use against her. When her family left Ireland and arrived in NY, she witnessed her first encounter of ignorance towards her family, and it didn't really stop.

It is estimated that from the years 1820 to 1930, 4.5 million Irish immigrants arrived to the United States. It is said that the Irish took some of the most risky job positions and were regularly at low pay. They cut waterways. They burrowed channels for water and sewer pipes. They laid rail lines. They cleaned houses. They slaved in material plants. They functioned as stevedores, stable specialists and metal forgers. I think many people tend to ignore the harsh reality Irish immigrants have faced to get to the US and generally, how much they have suffered. It's a point of history I've become more interested in learning about.

“You are my only granddaughter, and I want you to have it,” Gram declared, fastening the chain around my neck. “See the interlaced strands?” She touched the raised pattern with a knobby finger. “These trace a never-ending path, leading away from home and circling back. When you wear this necklace, you’ll never be far from the place you started.”

The only complaint I have is how I wish there was an epilogue, or another few small chapters to give us a sense of what happened after the end. I'm left even more curious now, and even though this is fiction, I felt as if Vivian and Molly were people I met. I became so aware of their story and background that I'm curious to know more about what will happen with the answers they have found. I also do think this book reads more like a young adult than an adult novel, but that didn't bother me at all.

All in all, Orphan Train was truly a surprise. I'm no historical fiction reader, but it is something I've become more interested in reading. This delivered more than I expected, especially in terms of emotions.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,029 reviews58.9k followers
September 26, 2016
The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is a 2013 William Morrow Paperbacks publication.

I had heard such wonderful things about this book and have wanted to read it for a long time. Finally, with the decision to push the pause button on so many review copies and float back into reading for pure pleasure, I found the time to work this one in the TBR pile.

This is just one of those really awesome stories that weaves historical details within a contemporary setting and enriches the lives of all who read it.

The orphan trains were indeed real, and Vivien’s experience was certainly plausible. I loved Vivien’s voice, her courage, and the way touched Molly’s life in a way no one ever had before, which drew Molly out, giving her a role model and inspiration all in one, giving her a new lease on life. I only had one complaint about her story, which can’t be explained here, but it was so improbable it affected my star rating.

While the story is bleak at times, and certainly captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, but it also made a nice parallel with how those who wind up in the system today are equally at risk and suffer some of the same prejudices and abuse, being tossed around from place to place, used for labor or for money.

I am so glad Molly met Vivien and enjoyed watching them forge a bond and enrich one another’s lives. Molly can be petulant and immature, unable to control her words or discipline herself, but also has the courage to stand up for herself and refuse to sacrifice her convictions. However, I think Vivien’s influence will be long reaching and Molly’s maturation is evident by the story’s end. By the same token, Molly’s influence on Vivien is also profound, as the elderly woman finds her whole world is open to new possibilities for the future, proving it is never too late to learn something new or try new things, and to never give up hope.

I am also grateful the author chose this topic and period in history, informing many of us about the trains, something many, including myself, were unfamiliar with, and how she took such a sad and heartbreaking situation and turned it into the ultimate feel good story.

4 stars
Profile Image for Hanna F.
49 reviews5 followers
June 17, 2013
From what I can tell, this book is not classified primarily as a young adult novel. It definitely should be. The writing style is very simplistic and elementary, which is fine for a YA book. I was just expecting something a little more adult in terms of the writing style.

That said, I think the subject of the book is very interesting. I found Vivian/Niamh's story fascinating, and I learned a lot about something in our country's history I knew nothing about. The ending was a little too neat and contrived, but I can forgive that because the rest of Vivian's story was so rich and fascinating.

I'm not rating this book higher because of Molly. Her perspecitve seemed completely gutted of any depth. It's pretty clear that the author only intended Molly to be a vehicle for Vivian's story, which is disappointing to me because I think the juxtaposition of Molly's and Vivian's stories would have so much more depth if Molly's character was developed more. The conflicts she goes through are too hastily resolved and her character development seems to happen out of nowhere. There is a sense of an ending for Vivian's character, but really none for Molly's - not even a hint of what might lie ahead. Molly's foster parents were unbelievably one-sided characters. Also, the author's attempts to write in Molly's teenage voice frequently came across as awkward - they are written pretty matter-of-factly and then all of a sudden there is random swearing or a makeout scene or her political differences with her stepmom. I think these things would be more easily reconciled if Molly's character were more fleshed out.

All in all, an enjoyable, fast, easy read. Interesting historical fiction; just fell flat in some places.
Profile Image for James.
Author 19 books3,579 followers
May 17, 2017
4 stars to Christina Baker Kline's Orphan Train. It is a beautiful book - everything from the story to the imagery. Two parallel stories being told about what happens to a young girl when her family life is threatened. The elder, a 90-something year old woman remembering her past. The younger, a teenager doing community service for the 90 year old. They bond. They fight. The stories nearly become one. And perhaps one of them will get to answer the question "who am I, really?" You feel so connected to the characters... want to help them, feel awful for what happens to children. And then at the same time, you recognize yourself in parts of their emotions.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
3 reviews
December 3, 2013
With some tweaking and editing, this might be a good young adult book as that's how it reads. I certainly didn't find it an adult book. I was disappointed that more history and information about orphan trains wasn't included. The author did appear to do her research, so I'm not sure why she chose not to include more of it.

The book was painfully predictable. I knew pages beforehand what Groate was going to do. At the first hint of hint of World War II, I knew what would happen to Luke. Dina was labelled a conservative, and I immediately knew she'd be written as a one-dimensional, stereotypical witch. My attraction to chick lit fiction is that it hasn't been politicized as everything else has been, until this book.

The bit about Vivian on the computer (Amazon, Netflix, etc.) was awkward and uncomfortable, and had me wondering if the author was paid for literary product placement. The texting, the business with the wifi, Twitter, Facebook....these are all things that belong in a book for teens, not in an adult book.

What bothers me the most, however, is that years ago I recall reading a book that very much follows the lines Vivian's younger life. It was a juvenile fiction book. Those parts were so familiar, so either that goes back to the book's wrenching predictability, or it's highly derivative.

It also ended abruptly. What happened to Molly? There weren't any final thoughts from her to give us any ideas of what direction her life would take. Disappointing.

There just isn't much subtlety, maturity or elegance to this book.

Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,460 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2020
I really loved this book. I am still wrapping my feeling about this book up because there was so much put into the 273 pages of this book. This book is a historical fiction book about the orphan trains that ran form the east coast cities to the farmlands if the Midwest between 1854 to 1929. In this book we follow two time lines. One of the time lines starts one at 1929 following young Irish immigrant Vivian, but some of the people that take her in changes her name. The other time line is 2011, and we follow Molly where she is during community-service. Her community-service is to help an elderly widow clean out her attic. During sorting through the items of the attic Molly discovers she and Vivan (the elderly widow) is not so different. This is a very powerful and moving story, but I have to say at times moving between the two time lines where hard to follow. Overall it was a great story. (*)
Profile Image for Melissa.
647 reviews28.6k followers
July 29, 2016
“Time constricts and flattens, you know. It’s not evenly weighted. Certain moments linger in the mind and others disappear.”

There’s no sugar coating it - this story broke my heart. I had no idea there were orphaned children that faced this fate; being thrown on a train from New York to the midwest in order to find a “family”. I say “family” because these people were looking for free labor as opposed to a child they were going to love.

The past is told from Niamh’s perspective, an Irish girl that emigrated to America with her family, only to lose them all in a fire and end up an orphan. In Niamh/Vivian’s case she was moved from one home to the next and suffered quite a bit. I could feel her loneliness seeping off of the pages.

The current time period is told from Molly’s perspective, a 17 year-old foster kid, struggling in her current situation. She’s been taken away from her mother, bounced from one home to the next, and landed with a couple that wants nothing more than the check. She put up a good front, standing strong and sticking to her beliefs, but boy there were times it was tough to watch. I absolutely HATED Dina. Why is it that the foster mothers were always so mean?

It’s community service that brings Molly and Vivian together, but it’s a school project that ultimately drags out the truth and cements their connection. First of all - Luke! He was my very favorite part of the story! He added the heart, something I felt was missing and desperately needed to connect more with the story. Vivian was basically a shell of person until he showed up.

I have to admit, the ending took a turn I didn’t expect. I still can’t wrap my mind around one of the decisions that Vivian made. After everything she went through - no way! Who would do that? I wish we were left with a little more closure. An epilogue even. It felt too abrupt.
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,642 followers
October 25, 2015
"They call this an orphan train, children, and you are lucky to be on it. You are leaving behind an evil place, full of ignorance, poverty, and vice, for the nobility of country life."

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me. According to the author, between the years 1854 and 1929, two-hundred thousand orphaned or abandoned children were transported from the East coast to the Midwest on these so-called orphan trains. They were supposedly sent there to find loving homes and a sense of security that the system felt would be best for them; but in reality, the outcomes were quite questionable and the futures of these children were very uncertain. This story is about one of those children, Niamh, as told through the eyes of her older self - Vivian, a name she was given once eventually adopted by a caring couple. Before this adoption, however, Niamh's story was anything but sweet and untroubled. We learn about her harsh life as the 91-year old Vivian relates the details to a modern day teen and foster home drifter named Molly. Molly has been assigned to community service due to a minor transgression and is given the task of assisting Vivian with cleaning out her attic. As Molly and Vivian sort through a lifetime of belongings, their two stories are brought to life and Molly is able to see the similarities between her own life and Vivian's past life. The book alternates between the voices of these two that have more in common than initially meets the eye.

The voice of Molly appealed to me less than that of Niamh, or Vivian. Full of teen angst, which was quite understandable, Molly's character was not as well developed. "… it kind of feels nice to nurture her resentment, to foster it. It's something she can savor and control, this feeling of having been wronged by the world." Eventually we do get to see another side of her, but I would have liked a bit more - particularly at the end of the novel. Molly's Penobscot Indian heritage was only lightly touched upon, and further delving into this historical aspect would have appealed to me. There is a twist to the story that I found to be a bit unbelievable, given the circumstances, but I can't say more here without giving away too much. Needless to say, this did bring the book down from 5 stars. However, the Orphan Train still held my interest throughout, so I have rated it a solid 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I would recommend this to readers of historical fiction, or even those interested in a young adult sort of story, as the portion with Molly often felt that way to me personally.

I have to throw in another favorite quote: "Vivian has come back 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 soles. So very true.
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews192 followers
April 2, 2013
3.5 stars. "Orphan Train" is a book set in both the present day and the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Vivian traveled from NYC to Minnesota as a young girl on one of the infamous "orphan trains" that was used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life. I've read a couple fictional accounts of what these orphan trains were like and it always amazes me that there was something like that in this country. The present day story also focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who is has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about the age out of the foster care system.

As with many stories that take place in both the past and the present, I preferred Vivian's story in the past. This book is very much a character driven book but it is much more driven by Vivian than by Molly. I loved all of the historical detail that I Kline put into the book. I also really liked the descriptions of the families that Vivian went through and the people that she met along the way. Some parts of the newer story seemed a little forced. Vivian's story also had a lot more twists and turns than Molly's story (I love being surprised by book events). The ending of the book especially seemed a little rushed. I really wanted more detail about Molly and who she was and the motivation for the things that she did in the book.

Overall, this book is a good read that will appeal to historical fiction lovers!
Profile Image for Linda.
1,230 reviews1,278 followers
January 25, 2016
Reading Orphan Train was like lifting the curtain on a part of our American history that many people are still unaware of. Thousands of children, the orphaned and the unwanted, were transported from cities of the East to the farmlands and small towns of the Midwest at the turn of the century and on into the Great Depression. It was a time of no background screening, minimal paperwork, and only a willingness to alleviate the hoards of children who were homeless for a multitude of reasons. While some children were better off under this limited system, so many were relegated to the life of an indentured servant, a built-in caregiver for other children, or a hardworking farmhand. If not placed, the remaining children were transported, once again, back to institutional life in the East until they became of age.

Christina Baker Kline has done an exceptional job of presenting the story of Niamh Power, a fictional character, who represents many aspects of a child's life under this system. Her research and background work is stellar in securing historically accurate depictions of the time period. The experiential background of this child will certainly open your eyes to the sad fate of some of these individuals. The additional insights and interviews with the author at the end of the book provided such an extension to her story.

What makes this such an exceptional read is Ms. Kline's use of a parallel story of current conditions alongside the telling of Niamh's life. It's not one story overshadowing the other. You are drawn both to the past and to the present with her adept use of characterizations. Not only is Ms. Kline talented in presenting the inner turmoil and emotions of the characters, but she paints the conditions, the settings, the interactions with a fine brush of satisfying details to be savored.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this book. Christina Baker Kline has caught my attention as an author whose works will always be memorable. Bravo!
Profile Image for Debbie W..
726 reviews492 followers
August 28, 2021
I became aware of this novel after reading the picture book titled Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting (highly recommend for younger readers!); therefore, I just had to read this particular book about a moving time in history! Even though I read this dual timeline book several years ago, Vivian's story was the part I enjoyed most!

A very heartrending must-read about this dark chapter in American history!
Profile Image for Elisabeth Plimpton.
172 reviews152 followers
August 6, 2021
Orphan Train is a heartbreaking but insightful read of two women who were abandoned early on in life. In 1929, Niamh’s family immigrated from Ireland to New York City. However, they pass away in a fire, and nine year old Niamh is sent to the Children’s Aid Society and ultimately on an orphan train going to the Midwest. Herself along with other orphans need homes, but we learn that the people taking them in are mostly looking for labor. Niamh lands in a few homes in Minnesota and sadly experiences more suffering and tragedy in her young life.

In Maine 2011, we meet seventeen year old Molly, who is of Indian descent. Her father died in a car crash and her mother is unable to care for her. She is living in a foster home, but has gotten into some trouble and doesn’t quite click with her “parents”.

The plot alternates between the past and present stories. Molly finds herself helping ninety-one year old Vivian (Niamh) clean out her attic. The two women learn that they have more in common than they think. Molly helps Vivian tell her story and reclaim her identity by revisiting painful parts of her past. Through her connection with Vivian, Molly becomes more at peace and accepting of herself, despite her life of hardships. Though the two timelines become progressively intertwined, I did feel more connected to Niamh’s story than Molly’s. I felt empathy for both women, but immense sadness with every trauma and loss Niamh experienced.

Orphan Train is full of family secrets, cultural identity, and forgotten history. The book is well written, and though devastating, it carries a thread of hope and resilience throughout.
447 reviews15 followers
December 3, 2013
This is another one of those "this book could have been so much better" books. I enjoyed learning about the orphan train and the experiences of those who were forced to ride them. I also enjoyed the relationship between 17-yr-old Molly and 91-yr-old Vivian, both of whom were orphans. So far, so good. But nearly all the foster families were exactly the same: strong-willed wives who didn't want to foster children married to milquetoast husbands who (for some reason) did. Whether in the 20's or present day, the men were dirt poor, yet found money for alcohol. Add to that Molly and Vivian had several identical experiences and it just got old. Also, the parts about Molly's Native American heritage seemed forced and I wasn't surprised to learn that the author's mother teaches a course about Native American women in literature and myth. So, I'm not sure that I recommend this novel. Those interested in the orphan trains would probably do well to just find historical books and biographies written by the original orphan train riders.
Profile Image for Theresa.
228 reviews140 followers
March 27, 2017
"Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline completely tugged at my heartstrings. Vivian and Molly might have a huge age gap between them, (Vivian is 91, Molly is 17) but both these sweet and sensitive ladies share a similar childhood. Both come from toxic families, and were later placed in foster care after becoming orphans. I found myself drawn to Vivian's chapters more than Molly's (not that Molly's chapters were boring or anything). Vivian's turbulent life aboard the orphan train had me in tears, and the families that took her in were nothing but disappointments and heartaches. It's amazingly tragic how screwed up the foster care system really was in America during the late '20s-early '30s. The same can be said about Molly's upbringing in foster care in the present day. My only gripe with this book is, it's WAY too short, (only 273 pages) I didn't want it to end. Beautifully written (Vivan's story is 1st person narrative and Molly's story is 3rd person narrative) and shockingly truthful about what it means to come from a family that NEVER felt like family to begin with. Sometimes the people we end up connecting with on an emotional level are those who are not blood-related. The power of friendship can be an ultimate life saver for someone who is lacking a solid foundation of family/stability. Vivian and Molly's surprising friendship feels sincere and respectful. I hope to read more of Kline's novels in the near future. Enjoy! :)
March 17, 2017
3.5 Stars

I am not sure if this was the best time for me to have read Orphan Train, so it's hard for me to rate this one. I read mostly for enjoyment and to learn something and how I feel and timing play a huge part in when and what I choose to read. I really did enjoy this one and I do love to be taken on an emotional journey and I definitely learned something here, as I was unaware of Orphan trains. I was mostly on my own emotional train and missed feeling some of the emotions I would of normally felt while reading this one.

The story is told in alternating chapters from present time of 17 year-old Molly who is doing community service and told in the past from Irish immigrant 91 year old Vivian who Molly is doing the community service for. In the past we learn of Vivian’s childhood. They seem like an odd match with nothing in common but we learn soon that they do and they start to form a bond. They both are orphans, had to adapt to one foster family to another, have had loss, suffering and perseverance. As the stories are told separately we start to understand their interconnections with each other and their stories become one.

Orphan Train had all the elements I love in an emotional read for me with a satisfying ending. My rating for this one is 3.5 at the time of reading for my enjoyment. I do highly recommend.

All of Norma's & my reviews can be found on our Sister Blog:
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,738 reviews14.1k followers
April 20, 2013
I had known about the Orphan trains and had even read a few previous books on that subject. What I did not know was that these orphan trains actually ran for over seventy years, from 1854 until 1929 and that some two hundred thousand children were put on these trains. Of course not all of them found a loving family, many were treated like indentured servants, and many were abused. In present day, Molly who is 17, a foster child, is given community service for attempting to steal a book from the public library. Her community service job introduces her to Vivian, who is 92, and needs help cleaning out her attic. In this absorbing tale, Vivian sees something of her younger self in Molly and as they go through the boxes Molly learns about Vivian's life as one of the children put on the orphan train. It is impossible not to be emotionally drawn to both of these characters. The narrative is realistic and told by both characters. Molly and Vivian both help each other and come to terms with what for Vivian is the end of her life, with a big surprise thrown in, and for Molly what is the beginning. The author includes at the end of the book pictures of some of the children. Will never understand how someone could have looked at these tender little children and not want to just hug them and take them home.
Absolutely stirring.
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,460 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2022
This is a historical fiction. I really loved this book. I am still wrapping my feeling about this book up because there was so much put into the 273 pages of this book. This book is a historical fiction book about the orphan trains that ran form the east coast cities to the farmlands if the Midwest between 1854 to 1929. In this book we follow two time lines. One of the time lines starts one at 1929 following young Irish immigrant Vivian, but some of the people that take her in changes her name. The other time line is 2011, and we follow Molly where she is during community-service. Her community-service is to help an elderly widow clean out her attic. During sorting through the items of the attic Molly discovers she and Vivan (the elderly widow) is not so different. This is a very powerful and moving story, but I have to say at times moving between the two time lines where hard to follow. Overall it was a great story.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
May 16, 2015
Troubled 17-year-old Penobscot Indian girl, Molly Ayer, moves from foster home to foster home after her father died in a car accident and her mom disappeared into her own haven of drugs and damnation.

Molly is found guilty of a misdemeanor and has to do community service, which brings her in contact with 91-year-old Vivian Daly, who had more with Molly in common than she could ever imagine. Both were orphaned, but in different eras and both had a story to tell.

Orphans were like turtles. They carried their homes on their backs. For those in foster care, they only had their bags to call home. It could be moved within an instant. Molly's dad told her: "They (turtles) were exposed and hidden at the same time. They're a symbol of strength and perseverance."

Vivian had nobody left to share her memories with. Her memories included the hardship of famine in Kinvara, County Galway, Ireland, her father's drinking problem, a family who wanted to get rid of them, and a journey to America, which started out on the ship, Agnes Pauline. She became orphaned when a fire broke out in their apartment in New York. She was taken to the orphan train.

She believed in ghosts, who surrounded her in everything she did, observing and witnessing, when no one in the living world knew or cared what happened
Sometimes these spirits have been more real to me than people, more real than God. They fill silence with their weight,dense and warm, like bread dough rising under cloth. My gram, with her kind eyes and talcum-dusted skin. My da, sober, laughing. My mam, singing a tune. The bitterness and alcohol and depression are stripped away from these phantom incarnations, and they console and protect me in death as they never did in life.
She learnt very early in life, as a nine-year-old girl, when they were lined up by height at the train station in New York, that it was best to not think about the past. That it was best to forget. Later in her life she would have to forget how they were transported from one station to the next, lining up on stages in halls around the country, where people could pick them like work horses for various labor purposes. Free labor for whomever took them. Their ages did not count much. Adoption was only an option; a three-month trial compulsory, with a return of 'goods'- no questions asked, a guarantee.

Vivian needed someone to assist in cleaning out her attic. Molly needed to do the community service, as well as a portage project for her history class. Two people were at the right crossroads at the right times of their lives. Through the hours of working together, and unpacking Vivian's past, a friendship evolves. A new lease on life begins.

How could anyone understood how Molly really felt? But Vivian knew all too well. She understood.

This pop-lit book (popular literature) centers around the friendship developing between the two main characters. In a quick fast read their stories are presented in alternate chapters.

The history of the orphan trains which removed 200 000 children from New York's streets, between 1854 to 1929, was riveting, to say the least.

The comparison between the young Molly's, and the much older Vivian's, orphan tales was so well done. The circumstances differed. It was two different periods in social development after all. But both the stories, described in detail, were still deeply unsettling.

It is a good ending nevertheless. A feel-good moment. A feel-good read.

Profile Image for KatieMc.
818 reviews87 followers
February 14, 2015
Orphan Train Wreck

The book I just read was terrible. It’s so bad, I thought that I might be the victim a literary candid camera type gag, where I would get to the last page and read “HA HA HA… you just read the fake parody version of Orphan Train.” Everything about this book was bad. Each and every character was straight out of central casting. The plot was predictable, rushed and overcrowded with stuff. If you saw any of my updates, you will know that the writing was gratuitously descriptive and melodramatic. The symbolism was embarrassingly obvious.

This book got off to a bad start with me. Shortly after an odd prologue about an unnamed character believing in ghosts, we meet Molly, a troubled Goth teen in the foster care system. Molly is a tough, demi-orphan , but she loves to read. Molly is in BIG TROUBLE!!!! She is on the hook to do 50 community service hours, but since she is untrustworthy no one will take her. And if she can’t do the service hours, she is heading back to juvie. Poor Molly is in a pickle. BTW, you might wonder what Molly did to get into such trouble. Maybe shoplifting, stealing cars, aggravated assault? Nope, Molly stole a tattered copy of Jane Eyre from the public library. Did I mention the symbolism was written at the third grade level?

Thanks to Molly’s perfect boyfriend, she snags a community service gig helping an elderly woman clean out her attic . This is where we meet Vivian Daly, the attic lady. Guess what, Vivian just happens to be a demi-orphan too, imagine that! So we start to learn about Vivian’s childhood and her experiences on the Orphan Train. Ironically, very little of her story actually takes place on the train.

The use of archetypal characters was tiring at best and often offensive. There were drunken absent fathers, evil foster mothers, bumbling husbands, immigrant hating Midwesterners, and magical savior teachers. Molly’s foster mother was painted as a meat-loving right wing-nut who wants to get rid of her. Which reminds me, I noticed that the author couldn’t seem help from adding superfluous layers to Molly’s character. For instance, when Molly is sent to clean Vivan’s attic, Molly confesses to being a neat freak. Molly also happens to be a vegetarian, something that didn’t seem to serve any purpose other than to add conflict between her and her foster mother.

I haven’t mentioned much about Vivian’s side of the story. It’s the historical part, taking place from 1929-1943 and follows Niamh (pronounced Neev) as she goes from Irish immigrant to orphan to foster child in a series of unfortunate placements. Niamh becomes Dorothy, because Americans hate foreign sounding names. She has a Dickensian experience which includes working in a sweat shop, caring for small children and eating squirrel stew. While Niamh’s story is written in present tense, from her child’s point of view, it was reads like an over acted soap-opera. As an example:
"Stripped of family and identity, fed meager rations, consigned to hard wooden seats until we are to be, as Slobbery Jack suggested, sold into slavery—our mere existence is punishment enough."
Said no nine year old ever.
Profile Image for Pauline.
750 reviews
September 2, 2017
1920's America, orphans were put on trains and taken to the Midwest. At each stop that the train pulled into some people were willing to take on a child either to adopt or to work for them. Some were treated like family members and well treated, other children were not so lucky. This is the story of one girl who is now an old lady and is telling her story to a girl who is helping her clear out her attic. Quite sad in parts as is was based on a true story.
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews398 followers
October 18, 2015
I listened to this one instead of reading, and think reading is the way to go. While still really liking the story, the narration just wasn't great. That being said, there's just no way to go wrong with this book. I had never heard of these "Orphan Trains," and still find it heartbreaking to see just how horribly humans can treat one another, especially children. These trains, carrying homeless, abandoned, and orphaned kids ran for many years, up until 1929. While supposedly helping find kids homes, they were literally taken through Midwest towns and given to whoever signed a silly form. Most became nothing more indentured servants.

I felt Kline was brilliant in creating such an amazing story, while at the same time shining her spotlight on an abhorrent piece of American History. The relationships and friendships that developed warmed my heart, especially after hearing the history of what so many endured. Kline has a lot going on here, entwining a current situation with her telling of the past, yet not once did I feel lost in any way. In the end, it's about hope, courage, and one's ability to face the most brutal of circumstances with dignity. Wonderful!
1,064 reviews14 followers
December 3, 2013
Orphan Train is an unfortunate train wreck of generic, formulaic, historical fiction plotting and all the subtlety and nuance of a Mack truck. It's got a great premise - the orphan trains were a real part of American history. Orphaned children were loaded up on trains by well-intentioned Children's Aid workers and marched off at various stops in the midwest and west where families would look them over and decide whether to keep them as foster children or eventually adopt them. It's not too much of a stretch to figure out how many were treated.

And that's about all that is good about this book. Both the present day story and the historical story both suffer from ridiculous cardboard characters and plot situations that are entirely predictable and cliched. 2 stars only for the setting and the potential of the book. Goodreads needs half stars to more accurately rate books.
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