|(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)|
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 widow clean out her attic 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 tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.
Orphan Train melted my heart. It made me sad; it made me mad; and it made me smile. This book took me from the present day worries of a foster kid trying to stay out of juvenile hall, to an older woman recounting her life's journey on an orphan train in the 1930s and the unhappy, unwelcoming homes she was forced to live in. Molly is the seventeen-year-old pseudo-goth who stole a library book and is working off her punishment by helping an old woman sort through her cluttered attic. Vivian is the old woman who is reluctant to get rid of anything in the boxes that she has Molly has unpacking. As they spend hours together sharing their stories, they wind up helping each other in some truly unexpected ways.
Christina Baker Kline has written a terrific story about a part of American history that is often overlooked - the orphan trains. Immigrant children who came to America with their families were sometimes abandoned due to unforeseen circumstances (in the case of Vivian, her father and brothers died in a fire and her mother was put in a mental ward, whilst her baby sister was given up for adoption - although Vivian was told her baby sister had died) and they wound up getting taken in by organizations that ran orphan trains. Basically, these children were given meager belongings, barely enough eats, and were taken to different cities and paraded in front of people in the hopes that they would be adopted. Some families genuinely wanted children, whilst others wanted free labor, or worse. In Orphan Train, we learn all about Vivian's experience on the train and afterward. Its pretty difficult at times to read about what she went through - it just makes your blood boil that any child would have to endure the horrible things she did. As for Molly, she's had a tough life as well, but for some reason her story didn't really affect me as much as Vivian's did. I just found myself more interested and affected by the character of Vivian - her story was just fascinating. I wound up zipping through this book during lunch and enjoying it immensely. I even recommended it to a co-worker, because I am convinced she will just love this book.
I have to admit that I actually found myself thinking of the Hallmark channel when I read this book, because it reminded me of the film, Love's Unending Legacy (one of the films of the Love saga that is always playing on Hallmark). Anyhow, in the movie, an orphan wagon comes to town and the kids are lined up so that the town's folk can check them out and decide if they want to adopt a kid. Its pretty heartbreaking watching these kids get picked over and then its even more upsetting to find out how some of them fare after they get adopted. Anyhow, as I read Orphan Train, the characters from the film kept flitting through my head as I imagined Vivian standing in line with all of the other orphaned children waiting to see if she will get adopted or not. I swear I had tears in my eyes. This book just really tugs on the heart strings, and makes you think about our country's history. It also makes you think about the ways in which our pasts plays a huge role in influencing our futures. This book definitely provides a lot of food for thought. I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, women's fiction, and fiction in general - this is one book you won't want to miss!
Here's a link to the TLC Book Tour page for: Orphan Train . Check out what everyone else had to say about this fantastic book!
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!