Book Review: The Orphan Train

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Author: Christina Baker Kline

Pages: 278

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.  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.

Review: So let’s start with the fact that I had no idea what this story was about when I first started reading it. I don’t always read the synopsis — if someone tells me a book is excellent, I just pick it up and start reading. Anyway, I thought this story was about WWI or WWII, I was very wrong but pleasantly surprised by the outcome. First, it’s hard not to like the two main characters, they are strong women who haven’t always had the easiest of time in life but have worked through it. Second is the story itself.

This story, while fiction, is about a time in American History that’s true and I had no idea (I might be writing that a lot here). Children were put on trains and brought to the Midwest in hopes of a family fostering them. I can’t imagine what was going through these children’s heads with no family, and already living in a different country than their home country like Vivian. It shows a type of resilience of those children and this story brings that to life through Vivian. While Vivian is strength, her story impacts Molly in a way that can only be described is human development and acceptance. It’s a beautiful story and while it closes a chapter I wanted more.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

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