Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train

Listen to Christina Baker Kline discussing Orphan Train on NPR

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.

The book Orphan Train weaves the stories of 17 year old Molly, who is a foster child, and Vivian, an elderly woman with a very troubled past.  I loved how this book bounced back and forth between the 1930’s and 2011 and told parallel stories, years apart.  The authors attention to detail is top notch and once you start this book you will not want to put it down.   I was very interested in the Orphan Trains and loved how the author included information regarding them at the back of the book.  The little extra information was quite interesting and added more to my reading experience.  I give this book 5 stars.


  1. Loved how Molly and Vivian help each other find solace and love and forgiveness in different yet parallel lives. Beautifully written.
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    1. What a great comment! Now you have me wanting to read it too! I know Amy LOVED it!!!

  2. This is a great story that reads like really compelling non-fiction...It will have you googling away to learn more about the orphan trains. The two parallel stories run seamlessly together and both main characters are interesting and totally believable. This is a book that you will be recommending to friends! It's a wonderful example of historical fiction with just the right amount of history intertwined with an amazing plot!

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