Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Orphan Train

by Christina Baker Kline
published: William Morrow, 2013
pages: 278

Molly is nearly 18-years-old and has pushed all the button in the foster care system.  She's on her last chance when she meet Vivian, a 91-year-old with spunk and a secretive past.  When Vivian agrees to help Molly with her community service hours, neither of them realize that their lives might not be as different as they first expect or that they would become friends.

At the beginning of the book, I found myself caring more about Molly's story in 2011 than the Niamh's story in 1929.  However, somewhere in the middle I the pace picked up and I started caring more about what happened to Niamh.  I found myself flipping through the book to find more Niamh chapters before continuing.

Part of that interest lies in the history behind the orphan trains.  I didn't know that these existed in American history and frankly it's sad.  Those in charge thought that they were helping children find a new home.  It might have made sense then, but it's a very flawed system that makes my heart ache for the kids.  That seems like a parallel was trying to be drawn from the orphan trains to the current foster care system and how they may not be as different as they would seem.

The writing isn't the best quality, but the story was engaging enough so that I didn't bother me much.  One thing I did like about the writing style was the use of different points of view. Molly's story is being told it's in third person and Niamh's story is being told it's in first person.  Just that little almost unnoticeable difference let's you know whose story is really being told.

Christina Baker Kline weaves a story of two women with similar pasts into an engaging story that left me feeling emotional and teary eyed.  Thank you for this book.

Stars: 3/5


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

"A compelling story about loss, adaptability, and courage... With compassion and delicacy Kline presents a little-known chapter of American history and draws comparisons with the modern-day foster care system."
     --Library Journal

"Absorbing...a heartfelt page-turner about two women finding a sense of home...Kline lets us live the characters' experiences vividly through their skin...The growth from instinct to conscious understanding to partnership between the two is the foundation for a moving tale."
     --Publishers Weekly

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