A Book Review: Orphan Train

The following is a book review by theameribritmom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of theameribritmom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences. 

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Title: The Orphan Train

Author: Christina Baker Kline

Publisher: William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

Copyright Date: 2013

The Orphan Train highlights the lives of two major characters: Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly, and troubled teenager, Molly Ayer. The setting varies between the midwest in the 1920’s and 30’s and Maine in 2011. Vivian lived through the depression of Ireland and joined her family in pursuit of a better life in America. Once they reached America tragedy struck her family and through a series of circumstances Vivian ended up on the historic orphan trains which transplanted orphans from New York City to the midwest. As Vivian’s journey begins as an orphan she is beyond the ideal age of adoption and she faces some hard situations and failed placements as a result.

Molly is a troubled teenager who has bounced around through the foster system for years. She is forced into serving community service due to theft charges. Through her community service her path collides with the now elderly Vivian. Vivian seeks out Molly’s help to sift through her attic of memories. During this process Molly learns about Vivian’s past and comes to realize that they are not so different. In the end, Molly helps Vivian to gain the courage to face her past.

This novel is a beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction. As I read this story I felt as though I was a fly on the wall in Vivian’s stuffy attic. With each new item revealed in the novel Vivian divulges a story from her past. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what else Vivian could possibly have endured in her long life. There are some extremely emotional scenes in this novel as both Vivian and Molly bond over their rough pasts, but that is part of the beauty of this book. The author takes two seemingly dissimilar lives and unites them through their pain and nightmares. Not only does Christina Baker Kline unite these characters in a painful way, but she brings them both to healing because of one another.

I love when an author can bring a story full circle the way that this author so brilliantly does. When lives collide and the result is positive I am always a fan. The characterization is detailed and thorough with back stories provided for each of the main characters that help you to understand their actions and motivations. My husband can pinpoint exactly when I got to the climax of this book because I startled him when I audibly gasped and my heart began racing. This novel is packed with twists and turns and was never a disappointment. The more I read the more evident it became to me that this author did her research when writing this novel. The historical accuracy of this unspoken time in American history is phenomenal. I even read in the interview at the end of the book about how much detail and research went into creating a genuine setting for the book. She even attended a reunion of orphan train riders and conducted interviews to maintain accuracy.

This was the first book I’ve read by this author, but I am looking forward to reading some more of her novels in the future. Other novels from this author include: Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Line, and Sweet Water.

What novels have you been reading lately?

Do you have novel suggestions for me?

I love a good book 🙂

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