Orphan Train: Book summary and reviews of Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train

by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2013
    304 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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About this book

Book Summary

Paperback Original

Orphan Train is a gripping story of friendship and second chances from Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be.

Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to "aging out" out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse...

As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns 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.

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 by Christina Baker Kline is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Absorbing...a heartfelt page-turner about two women finding a sense of home...The growth from instinct to conscious understanding to partnership between the two is the foundation for a moving tale." - Publishers Weekly

"Kline draws a dramatic, emotional story from a neglected corner of American history." - Kirkus

"I was so moved by this book. I loved Molly and Vivian, two brave, difficult, true-hearted women who disrupt one another's lives in beautiful ways, and loved journeying with them, through heartbreak and stretches of history I'd never known existed, out of loneliness toward family and home." - Marisa de los Santos, New York Times-bestselling author of Belong to Me and Falling Together

"A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of American history. Beautiful." - Ann Packer, New York Times-bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Swim Back to Me

"In Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline seamlessly knits together the past and present of two women, one young and one old. Kline reminds us that we never really lose anyone or anything or - perhaps most importantly - ourselves." - Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle

"I loved this book: its absorbing back-and-forth story, its vivid history, its eminently loveable characters. Orphan Train wrecked my heart and made me glad to be literate." - Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys

"Christina Baker Kline writes exquisitely about two unlikely friends ... each struggling to transcend a past of isolation and hardship. Orphan Trainwill hold you in its grip as their fascinating tales unfold." - Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Painted Girls

"Christina Baker Kline's latest wonder, Orphan Train, makes for compulsive reading...Meticulously researched and yet full of the breath of life, Kline's novel takes us on an historical journey where survival depends upon one's own steely backbone, and the miracle of a large and generous heart." - Helen Schulman, New York Times-bestselling author of This Beautiful Life

"A poignant and memorable story of two steadfast, courageous women...A revelation of the universal yearing for belonging, for family, for acceptance and, ultimately, the journeys we must all make to find them." - Kathleen Kent, New York Times-bestselling author of The Heretic's Daughter and The Traitor's Wife

The information about Orphan Train shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Lea Ann

Children tossed about by fate
I was familiar with the concept in the U.S. of the Orphan Trains, but had not read anything that disclosed as much detail as Kline's excellent book. The book fully held my attention by intertwining a child from one of those trains with another child who was a ward of the state in our current foster system. Neither systems were 100 close to seeing to it that these children, uprooted by family death, poverty, neglect, etc received the care, the schooling, the love they deserved, but many ended up in dire circumstances. The book brought me close to tears at times and made me appreciate my own parents and more so my own children. The book has an afterward of factual information about the Orphan Trains, which is well worth reading, in addition to the story itself.

Becky H

Finding a family
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.
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.

Louise J

Truly an Amazing Story!
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.

Karen R

Excellent 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.

Kyle

Orphan Train
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.

Dorothy T.

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.

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.

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More Information

More Information

Christina Baker Kline is a novelist. Her novels include Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water. She is Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University. She lives in an old house in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, David Kline; three boys, Hayden, Will, and Eli; and Lucy, an English springer spaniel. She spends summers with extended family in an even older house on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

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