Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Review: "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train Christina Baker Kline
Published: April 2, 2013
ISBN-10: 0061950726
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Highly Recommended

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 trucks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only think 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 tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.

My Thoughts:
I simply could not put this book down!

I had heard about the orphan trains first when I saw a documentary on The American Experience.  Then, when I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it.  I knew going in that it was about a girl on the orphan trains.  However, I was not aware of the parallel story with Molly, the foster child.  While I would have enjoyed this book if it were only about Vivian, I think the addition of Molly's story is what really gives it teeth.

I loved the writing style of this book. It was poetic without being too sophisticated for the subject matter.  Baker Kline also does an excellent job of creating two truly memorable characters in Vivian and Molly.  Both characters spend the bulk of the book in similar situations, but they escape the trap of melding into each other.

Parts of this book were very hard for me to read--not because it was badly written, but because it was so well written.  The pain inflicted on these two girls is so astutely expressed that the reader can't help but feel it.

One touch I really liked was the introduction of two other works of literature: Jane Eyre and Anne of Green Gables.  The introduction of two famous literary orphans was a nice detail in this book.

There only two minor things that are keeping me from giving this review 5 stars.  For one thing, I was so engrossed in this story that I wish it was a bit longer, but I realize that is just my feeling.  The other thing--and this is very petty on my part--but I kept wondering how Molly, a foster child in a less than generous placement, would have both a cell phone (I believe it was a smart phone, but I may be remembering that incorrectly) and a laptop.  I know, it is a small detail, but it sort of nagged at me.

Every once in a while a book comes along that just invades your soul.  For me, Orphan Train was one of those books and it is one that I will be recommending to just about everyone I know.

The review is part of a blog tour by TLC book tours.  I received a copy of the book to read and review, but all opinions are mine and mine alone.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Want another opinion?  Check out some of the other stops on this tour (links go to the home page of the blog, not the specific review):

Tuesday, June 25th: BoundbyWords
Thursday, June 27th: Bibliophiliac
Tuesday, July 2nd: Turn the Page
Wednesday, July 3rd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, July 11th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Tuesday, July 16th: A Patchwork of Books
Tuesday, July 23rd: Time 2 Read
Thursday, July 25th: bookchickdi
Thursday, August 1st: Life in the Thumb
Thursday, August 8th: Literary Feline
Tuesday, August 13th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, August 19th: nomadreader

Orphan Train: Novel
by Christina Baker Kline


  1. This book was already high on my list but after your review I'm moving it directly to the top. It sounds amazing!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  2. Replies
    1. It is great...I've read some really good books this year, and this was one of the best.

  3. I loved this one too! I'd really like to see that documentary now. I'm fascinated by this topic!