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Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
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Orphan Train (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Christina Baker Kline (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,6774121,685 (3.98)1 / 235
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.… (more)
Member:acappon
Title:Orphan Train
Authors:Christina Baker Kline (Author)
Info:William Morrow (2013), Edition: F First Edition, 278 pages
Collections:Your library
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Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013)

  1. 41
    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Another good read showcasing a small bit of American history
  2. 20
    The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Isolated old ladies benefit by telling their stories to younger women.
  3. 10
    The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (tangledthread)
    tangledthread: Similar story of a young woman aging out of the foster care system.
  4. 11
    My Notorious Life by Kate Manning (Anonymous user)
  5. 12
    Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult (JenniferMCampbell)
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» See also 235 mentions

English (404)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (412)
Showing 1-5 of 404 (next | show all)
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12931424

I wanted more. I was expecting more about the orphan trains themselves, and there is a fair amount of information, but I wanted more detail. At the same time, of course, I am glad that I read this book because it showed me a part of history that I had not known anything about.

The novel is set in two different time frames: the story of the orphan Niamh (pronounced "Neve") in 1929 and the story of the near-orphan Molly in 2011. The stories alternate and actually intertwine, because the Niamh of 1929 became the Vivian of 2011. I'm not giving much away by revealing this.

Niamh loses her family in a house fire in New York City in 1929. She is placed on an "orphan train" later that year, with many other children of all ages. She is an immigrant from Ireland who has red hair and freckles, not a desirable physical trait at that time. Fortunately, she had learned how to read before she lost her family, so had something to work with, along with a brain that worked. The orphan train takes children from the big cities in the northeast to the farmlands in the midwest. Days and times of their arrivals are posted ahead of time so that families wishing to take in a child could wait for the train.

We follow Niamh as she is placed in one family after another, along the way learning how many of these placements work. Boys were often taken for their use on farms, as labor. Girls were taken in to sew or do similar tasks. On occasion children were adopted simply because a couple could not have children. There were agencies charged with looking after the welfare of the children but they didn't often make changes, even when the children were treated very badly.

In modern day Maine, Molly is housed with foster parents, one of whom would rather she were not there. She is a "trouble maker" - does her best to alienate people. Her anger at her situation comes out in her Goth clothing and piercings. One day she tries to slip a dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre out of the library and is caught. The punishment is community service.

Here we want to suspend disbelief just a bit. She is able to do her community service in aid of an elderly wealthy woman, helping her to go through her attic full of boxes. I doubt that this is really what is meant by "community service" but we'll go along.

While poring through the boxes, Molly and Vivian get to know a bit about each other, and Molly discovers Vivian's past, which has some similarity to her own.

I felt some sympathy for Vivian. I had a harder time with Molly, who seemed a bit of a caricature. The author says that in skipping between the two stories she wanted to avoid the irritation we sometimes feel when a book alternates between two stories, when we like one story more than the other, by adding in bits from Vivian's story into Molly's. I think she succeeded. I didn't feel that irritation. I was fine just going from time to time and back again.

It was interesting but I didn't love it. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
A worthy read that gives a flavor of what children experienced as orphans sent on a journey to the West. This is historical fiction with a contemporary storyline woven in. I'm a bit ambivalent about whether the intertwining stories were really necessary, but this probably makes the book more appealing to some readers. Overall, well done. ( )
  jjpseattle | Aug 2, 2020 |
What a great book... until the very last chapter. I feel like the author was trying to end the book in a tidy way, but it was unrealistic. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
This book was selected by our book club. I dreaded reading it because of the topic and I thought it had more to do with WWII. This is an American Tale that was beautifully designed and written.

As I started reading I recalled that I had already read it and I almost put it back down but the main protagonist lured me into her story. I wanted to stay a bit longer and hear her story again.

Christina - thank you for a beautiful book! ( )
  Jolene.M | Jul 30, 2020 |
Really enjoyed this one. Tale of two orphans and how they cope with what life has thrown at them. ( )
  wills2003 | Jul 30, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 404 (next | show all)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christina Baker Klineprimary authorall editionscalculated
Almasy, JessicaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fröhlich, AnneÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guerrero, JavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jansen, JanineCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerner, Jamie LynnInterior Designsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metaal, CarolienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sævold, Ann-MagrittOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thieme, Britt-Mariesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toren, SuzanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
In portaging from one river to another, Wabanakis had to carry their canoes and all other possessions. Everyone knew the value of traveling light and understood that it required leaving some things behind. Nothing encumbered movement more than fear, which was often the most difficult burden to surrender.
-Bunny McBride, Women of the Dawn
Dedication
To
Christina Looper Baker,
who handed me the thread,
and Carole Robertson Kline,
who gave me the cloth.
First words
Prologue
I believe in ghosts.
Through her bedroom wall Molly can hear her foster parents talking about her in the living room, just beyond her door.
Quotations
"...you can't find peace until you find all the pieces."
– I learned long ago that loss is not only probable but inevitable. I know what it means to lose everything, to let go of one life and find another. And now I feel, with a strange, deep certainty, that it must be my lot in life to be taught that lesson over and over again.
Her hand flutters to her clavicle, to the silver chain around her neck, the Claddagh charm – those tiny hands clasping a crowned heart: love, loyalty, friendship – a never-ending path that leads away from home and circles back.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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