Title: Orphan Train
Author: Christina Kline
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: April 2, 2013
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.
I loved this book. I honestly didn’t expect to. My uncle lent it to me because he thought I might be interested. At first, I was interested, but only a little. Then, as I got further into the book and delved deeper into the lives of both the main characters, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages. Both Molly and Vivian led fascinating lives, full of emotion and events that shaped their lives. These events were both happy and sad, and I got caught up in both types. There were moments when I couldn’t help but smile at the sweetness that life could bring, and there were moments where I cried from the cruelty that same life could endure.
Molly and Vivian were great characters, too. I don’t think that there could have been two better people suited for the role than these two characters. Molly was young, but experiencing the harshness of the world. I loved her connection to her Indian heritage through her charms, tattoo, and memories of her dad, as well as how it connected to the rest of the story. Vivian was old, but experienced so much in her past. Her story was a puzzle, putting together a piece at a time, chapter by chapter. I was constantly anticipating, wondering how she got from one point in her life to another. The sequence of the book helped a lot with this, but it was also the charisma of her character. I came to care for both the young girl on the orphan train and the old lady living in the mansion. And the way those two personas pulled together to create one Vivian was great.
I had never heard of the orphan trains before this book, so I’m also glad that I could learn a bit about history while reading it. It was hard to read at times because the characters were so realistic and the plot so simultaneously painful and fascinating. The author definitely achieved this through Vivian’s stories of her youth. If it were any other orphan, I’m not sure how effective this story in particular would have been. This book also sparked an interest in me to read memoirs of the orphan trains, so I’ll be looking into those soon!
If you like historical fiction or realistic fiction, this book is definitely for you. The characters bring the history to life, and the present-day events in the book are touching, especially as Molly learns from her new, older and wiser friend. But be warned: it is a somewhat sad book. Happy in the end, but I almost cried several times. I can only hope you enjoy it as much as I did.