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I’m not sure that I have ever heard of orphan trains that took 200,000 children from the coast to the midwest to find their families. Another good, sometimes tragic event in American history. This book poses a question: What would be the important things you take with you throughout your life from past experiences? This book also had an interesting way of combining and melding the past and present. While there is some strong adult language, this book is a great read for those who enjoy historical fiction.
Two stories intertwined
This novel takes a look at an idea in American history that should have worked more consistently than it apparently did. During the late 1800s through the early 1900s orphans from the disadvantaged areas of the eastern US were transported by train to the Midwest to be adopted by families there. Some families were good to these children, some only wanted cheap labor. One of the two main characters of Orphan Train, Vivian, was one of these children, and we watch how her life turned out as she shares her story with the other main character, Molly, who has a similar background in the present, that of being shuttled from place to place. I was engaged as these two girls dealt with what life handed them and the people who were meant to care for them.
Finding a family
I might have given this a 5 rating, except that like so many contemporary writers Kline finds it necessary to resort to vulgar language in the modern sections of the story.
This novel will appeal to both teens and adults. Orphan Train tells two interlocking stories. The first concerns a frustrated, angry teen who has been bounced around the foster care system from one uncaring “home” to another, unloved and generally unwanted. Molly, half Indian, has stolen a library book and is now forced to do 50 hours of community service. Through her boyfriend she finds herself helping Vivian, a 90 year old woman who wants help “clearing out” her attic of a lifetime’s worth of boxes and mementos.
Truly an Amazing Story!
Vivian’s story, told in flashback and the more fleshed out of the two stories, is that of an Irish immigrant child orphaned and then sent from New York to the Midwest on one of the “Orphan Trains” organized by the Children’s Aid Society. The children are often no more than “cheap labor” to the receiving families and this is Vivian’s fate.
Realistic in both tales, the novel gives a vivid and accurate portrait of life for unwanted children in two eras. Mother/daughter book groups will find much to discuss - family, adoption, family services, poverty, child labor, education, faith, “acting out”, tattoos, belonging – among others. Adults will likely find Vivian’s story easier to relate to, especially the topic of adoption and seeking one’s birth family.
The Orphan Train was a phenomenal story that affected me deeply. My heart went out to all the children on the orphan train. I will most definitely be recommending this wonderful masterpiece to all who’ll listen. Orphan Train gets a huge thumbs up from me! Thank you Ms. Kline for a most interesting and intriguing story.
I loved this story of two women who grew up as orphans in different eras. The chapters alternate between present day and the 1930's. The elderly 91 year old woman and teen Molly are brought together after troubled Molly has to do 50 hours of community service to avoid being sent to a juvenile detention center. Molly chooses what she thinks is an easy one - clean the 91 year old Vivian's attic. This seemingly small task enriched Molly's life in a way she couldn't have imagined. In fact, the project enhances the lives of both women and I did not want the story to end. It was that good.