Review, Tour & Giveaway: Orphan Train

Orphan Train
Orphan Train
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.

Christina Baker Kline

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.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review and giveaway copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.


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.

Click here to enter the giveaway

30 thoughts on “Review, Tour & Giveaway: Orphan Train”

  1. This sounds like I would like it a great deal with the 1929 period and the Irish connection. I’d probably be drawn more to Vivian’s part of the story…but that’s ok with me

  2. I’m about halfway through this book and I love it. I don’t even mind Molly, because I can see through her and feel bad about the crappy cards she has been dealt. Did you read The Chaperone? They talked about the orphan trains in that book too.

    1. I haven’t read The Chaperone but these Orphan trains… wow! They sound like their last chance so if you think of it that way, they sound like a blessing but that one house that Dorothy ends up in… wickedly bad conditions. I just don’t see how someone could think living like that is better than being homeless.

    1. I think you would eat up Vivian’s story. Maybe Molly’s too since you read so many YA books. Her story is definitely more juvenile in feel.

  3. I’ve been wanting to read this since I first heard about it. I like that there are two characters to the story and both sound interesting. Would love a chance to win a copy, thanks!

  4. Sounds like such an interesting read. I’m already taken with Vivian as you were describing the story. Wow! I definitely want to read this one!

  5. What a fascinating and special novel that appeals to me. It would be unforgettable. Thanks for this chance.

  6. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book lately and get a little more excited about it each time I read a review. I imagine I will be most taken with Vivian’s story too. I had never heard of the orphan trains before. Thanks for the great review, Ti!

  7. This is one that I have been wanting to read since first hearing about it. I am glad to hear that you liked it, for the most part. I can see why Molly irritated you, as she would me as well. Great review today, Ti!

  8. A friend just recommended this one to me. She was raving about it. Of course I need another book like a hole in the head, but, I would like to read it. And you make it sound like one I would love.

  9. Wow! I really want to read this book. In college, my World Literature professor was orphaned in Ireland during the Great Flu Epidemic. His parents and all his brothers and sisters died from it. That makes this book very real to me without even have read this book. Even though it was earlier in time, I know that some of the conditions must have been the same.

    1. These children were displayed like cattle and they could be snapped up for any reason. To work the farm, clean the house, cook, etc. They were rarely chosen to be a part of the family.

    1. The part where the kids are actually on the train, is particularly well done in this novel. I really felt everything that those kids were feeling.

  10. Yeah it’s hard to believe these orphan trains really happened. I didnt know anything about them until I listened to The Chaperone last year on audio. The experience sounds crushing …

  11. I first heard about orphan trains mentioned in a different novel a year or so ago and I was both fascinated and horrified. I’m definitely intrigued to see it play a larger role in a story.

    Thanks for being on the tour Ti!

  12. I loved this book. I listened to the audio and it was very well done. I was more drawn to Vivian’s story as well but I began to like Molly more when she started getting closer to Vivian. You saw her caring side come out then.

    As for the orphan trains the very idea horrifies me. No child should have had to go through that and the people who picked them out of lineups and then mistreated them – well you know what should have been done with them.

    On another note, sorry I haven’t been around lately either. I’m not sure where my motivation has gone but most days I can’t find it. Lol. It’s not that I’m not thinking of my favorite blogging buddies…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s