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Orphan Train Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 2, 2013
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A long journey from home and the struggle to find it again form the heart of the intertwined stories that make up this moving novel. Foster teen Molly is performing community-service work for elderly widow Vivian, and as they go through Vivian’s cluttered attic, they discover that their lives have much in common. When Vivian was a girl, she was taken to a new life on an orphan train. These trains carried children to adoptive families for 75 years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the start of the Great Depression. Novelist Kline (Bird in Hand, 2009) brings Vivian’s hardscrabble existence in Depression-era Minnesota to stunning life. Molly’s present-day story in Maine seems to pale in comparison, but as we listen to the two characters talk, we find grace and power in both of these seemingly disparate lives. Although the girls are vulnerable, left to the whims of strangers, they show courage and resourcefulness. Kline illuminates a largely hidden chapter of American history, while portraying the coming-of-age of two resilient young women. --Bridget Thoreson
“A compelling story about loss, adaptability, and courage . . . With compassion and delicacy Kline presents a little-known chapter of American history and draws comparisons with the modern-day foster care system.” (Library Journal)
“In ORPHAN TRAIN, Christina Baker Kline seamlessly knits together the past and present of two women, one young and one old. Kline reminds us that we never really lose anyone or anything or--perhaps most importantly--ourselves.” (Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle)
“I loved this book: its absorbing back-and-forth story, its vivid history, its eminently loveable characters. ORPHAN TRAIN wrecked my heart and made me glad to be literate.” (Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys)
“One of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read...I am compelling all of you, even begging you, to make this novel your next read. You’ll be talking about it for years to come!” (Naples Daily News (FL))
“A gem.” (Huffington Post)
“Absorbing...a heartfelt page-turner about two women finding a sense of home...Kline lets us live the characters’ experiences vividly through their skin...The growth from instinct to conscious understanding to partnership between the two is the foundation for a moving tale.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Kline draws a dramatic, emotional story from a neglected corner of American history.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“I was so moved by this book. I loved Molly and Vivian, two brave, difficult, true-hearted women who disrupt one another’s lives in beautiful ways, and loved journeying with them, through heartbreak and stretches of history I’d never known existed, out of loneliness toward family and home.” (Marisa de los Santos, New York Times-bestselling author of Belong to Me and Falling Together)
“A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of American history. Beautiful.” (Ann Packer, New York Times-bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier and Swim Back to Me)
“Christina Baker Kline writes exquisitely about two unlikely friends . . . each struggling to transcend a past of isolation and hardship. ORPHAN TRAIN will hold you in its grip as their fascinating tales unfold.” (Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Painted Girls)
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I learned on the very first page entitled “Dear Reader” that Christina Baker Kline decided to revamp the book (or a certain situation in the book) slightly due to reader feedback. As she says, she “would have the chance to fix small errors, update factual information, clarify and sharpen the language in places, and – most important – add a scene that I’ve long regretted not including.” Ms. Kline even mentioned Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory in her letter to the reader.
The book was definitely a “could not put down” experience for me. I read it over the course of three days only because I had events to attend over a weekend or I probably would have finished it half that time.
ORPHAN TRAIN was a mix of favorite childhood books of mine such as ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, HEIDI, and UNDERSTOOD BETSY, and Ms. Kline used the L.M. Montgomery Anne book in her story. Niamh (pronounced Neev) was an Irish immigrant girl sent on an orphan train from New York City to Minnesota in the late 1920s. At the same time, the book is the 2011 story of Molly, a high-school teen getting ready to age out of foster care in New England. Niahm, changed to Dorothy and then to Vivian, and Molly meet unexpectedly when Molly is tasked with helping 91-year-old Vivian clean out her attic to get in community service hours for stealing a library book. This situation proved to be cathartic and affirming for both Molly and Vivian.
I thought Ms. Kline presented a wonderful story of historical fiction using flashbacks of Vivian’s life intertwined with a believable foster child in today’s system.
At the end of the new version, an author interview and reading group guide are presented, as well as a short history on the orphan trains.
ORPHAN TRAIN is now a personal favorite and one of my most highly recommended book I have reviewed.
I also was touched by the two women, who seemed to be so different on the surface, one youthful, angry, Goth, loud and bitter, and the other, elderly, elegant, quiet, thoughtful, and perceptive, both coming together and discovering a thread that held them together.
When Vivian met her daughter, there was closure for me. The last lines felt good, and yet gave the impression that the story would live on. I was glad I read this book. I learned history of the orphan train, which was something I'd never heard of before, which was very insightful. Yet, a more important message that came through for me was that people ought not to judge and rather, learn the whole story when it comes to people we don't understand. We need to know that in these days, there are children much like those from the orphan train, who need others to help them through their messed up lives. This was a wonderful story with a wonderful message.