By Christina Baker Kline
William Morrow & Company, Paperback, 9780061950728, April 2013, 273pp.)
The Short of It:
Alternating between heartbreak and hope, Orphan Train is a story of resilience and survival.
The Rest of It:
Molly Ayer is a foster kid, trying to make do with the life she’s been dealt. At seventeen, she’s been bounced around from one family to another; none of them a home. Her current situation is no better. Willful and defiant, she often argues with her foster parents and when she steals a book from the library, she finds herself in a boatload of trouble. Her friend, Jack, finds her a community service opportunity helping an elderly lady clean out her attic. Molly’s not too excited about spending all those hours helping a perfect stranger. But as Molly gets to know Vivian and the history contained within those boxes, Molly begins to realize that they have more in common than she thought.
The story is told in alternating chapters and takes us from Vivian’s story in 1929, to Molly’s story which takes place in 2011. Vivian’s story is absolutely heartbreaking. Losing her family in a fire, Niamh (pronounced Neev) is placed aboard a train of orphans. The train stops in each town with the hopes of finding homes for the children aboard. Niamh, at ten years of age is already considered too old to adopt. If she finds a home at all she is guaranteed life of hard labor. Whether it be taking care of children or working her fingers to the bone doing mending or cleaning or whatever else comes to mind. She also quickly realizes that she won’t be able to retain the name given to her by her family. Her fierce red hair and Irish descent raises an eyebrow everywhere she goes so when a family steps up and offers her a place in their home as a seamstress, she quickly learns that she’ll be Dorothy. Something that she is forced to accept and a practice that is repeated until she settles on the permanent name of Vivian.
Vivian’s story is riveting, but as sad as it was to read about her poor living conditions as a child. I found myself gravitating towards her chapters more so than Molly’s. Molly is difficult to like. She assumes the role of troublemaker by dying her hair dark, wearing a nose ring and playing the all-around bad girl. Only those very close to her know that she’s not that way. Her friend Jack for one, and perhaps her guidance counselor, but her story did not pull me in as much as Vivian’s, so I didn’t feel as connected to Molly as I wanted to be.
However, when these two unlikely characters meet, Kline does a good job of weaving between the two stories and figures out how to make them come together in a satisfying way. My only quibble, is that the ending was a tad rushed and perhaps, too convenient.
Nevertheless, this is a riveting story and highly readable. I should mention that these trains actually existed. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe but it’s true which of course makes the story even more interesting.
If you’d like a shot at winning the book, I have a copy to giveaway to one of my readers! Details below.
To visit her website, click here.
To visit her Facebook page, click here.
Follow @bakerkline to follow her on Twitter!
To visit her other tour stops, click here.
This giveaway is for one copy of Orphan Train and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on April 30, 2013 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.