Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

This book was given to me to read as a member of the She Reads Blog Network. To find out more about She Reads, what it is all about and the difference the members  are making in the world, click here: http://www.shereads.org/
Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars




Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
0061950726 (ISBN13: 9780061950728)
edition language

Listen to Christina Baker Kline discussing Orphan Train on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2013/04/14/1769202…

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers 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.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, 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.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.–Description From Goodreads

From the beginning, the Story of the young Irish girl who would later become the 93 year old woman Vivian grabbed me and refused to let go of my attention. The imagery the author used and the way she described the uncertainty of the children on the Orphan Train was heartfelt and moving.

My favourite portion of this story was the part where Carmine was a young baby and Niamh was responsible to look after him. The dynamic between herself, Carmine and Dutchy was such a fantastic example of how an author can make a their characters so believable that you feel you could honestly reach out and touch them.

The story of Molly was also interesting, but I felt it was not explored as much as Vivian’s life, and the way the author portrayed her foster parents put a bit of a damper on an otherwise enjoyable novel. I understand that she was displaying strength by reaching out when she needed help and found herself homeless, but honestly I couldn’t grasp the family that was housing her having a foster child at all, even for a paycheck. I think the lack of closeness to Molly’s character may also have come from the fact that most of the book was told through the eyes of Niamh/Dorothy/Vivian, and since her life was so interesting, and as a reader I spent so much time with her, it was more difficult to transition to another point of view.

The continuing story of Niamh and her experiences was what truly made this book worth the read. Christina Baker Kline did an astronomical job of giving her a varied background that put down a perfect foundation for a character that ultimately becomes a part of the reader’s heart by the end of the book. This novel has moments where you want to reach into the pages and slap someone around, protecting Niamh, and other places where you just want to hug her and tell her everything will be okay. I could barely read this book with dry eyes.

I was happy that there was a bit of a love story involved in this novel, and thought the author handled it well, and although one event in particular was not entirely unexpected, it was beautifully written.

This is not the type of book that you read and simply forget. The characters burrow their way into your heart and mind, and although fictional, it was the kind of book that made me think–about life, my own childhood and how much we take for granted.

I found the ending to be satisfactory, most of the loose ends were tied up and yet it was bittersweet. If you are looking for a great read to occupy your mind, may I suggest this novel.

This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through the She Reads Blogging Network. My opinions are my own.

10 thoughts on “Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline”

      1. I just started Life after Life. I’m struggling with it. Having trouble following it. If it doesn’t come together for me soon, I will abandon it. Too many books I want to read out there.


  1. Great review- I agree about Molly’s character being less developed than Vivian’s (but maybe you expect that when comparing a 17 yr old and a 91? yr old)- and I definitely want to slap some people around :-))


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