Orphan Train

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline was one of the best books that I read in the past year.


What I love about historical fiction is learning about things in history that I had never known before.  And, although, I wouldn’t necessarily categorize this book as historical fiction, it provided that element for me.  I had never known about the Orphan Trains that transported orphans from the east coast to the west for a period of 75 years through part of the 19th and 20th centuries.   The trains arrival would be advertised in the towns that it was stopping in and potential adoptive parents would await it’s arrival.  Some of these folks were genuinely looking for babies/children to adopt and many were looking for free labor.  No matter what the reason children were literally handed over to whoever was willing to take them.   That’s the back drop for this tale. 

The story begins in 2011 with Molly, a 17 year old girl who has been living in foster care for several years. She’s been bounced around from one family to another, many times living with people who are fostering for the money. After getting into a little trouble with the law she is sentenced to some community service which links her up with an elderly woman named Vivian.  It’s while helping Vivian clean out her attic that Vivian’s story as one of the orphans on the Orphan Train in 1929 is revealed.  The book bounces back and forth from the past to the present.  The present is told from Molly’s point of view and the past from Vivian’s.  In learning Vivian’s story Molly unexpectedly discovers someone she can relate to and a bond is formed between the two.

This book was so hard to put down.  Before I knew it I was on the last page and wishing it wouldn’t end.  I am a library patron.  Because I own so many books I don’t allow myself to purchase any unless I’ve already read it, found it wonderful and decided it’s worthy to take up space on my bookshelf.   I think Orphan Train may be one of those books.



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