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on May 21, 2015
A friend of mine recommended this book to me. I was moved by the experiences of both the young girl and the older woman, Vivian. While I read ORPHAN TRAIN, I felt as if I were experiencing an awakening of both women's hearts with the memories that were shared. This book gives insight into the idea that trust can so easily be shattered in people through harsh experiences, and that it takes special people to break through the walls that others put up to protect themselves.

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.
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on June 7, 2016
This historical novel was well written as the author describes the journeys of many orphaned children in New York City that were sent by train to other states for adoption and the horrific processes these children experienced during the earliest adoption runs. This book was an eye opener for me because I didn't know anything about this happening until reading this book. The author also published the names of these children and the families who adopted them in the counties surrounding where I now live. This list provides people with the ability to track their ancestry if they were related to these orphaned children. The story really touched my heart.
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on March 13, 2014
This is a solid read. Enough history to learn something I didn't previously know, and enough fiction to keep me very interested. I really enjoy reading this genre, and love character development. I recommend it to anyone who won't miss gratuitous sex, and explicit/repetitive/nonsensical violence. It was realistic (how people can treat fellow humans so poorly is an ongoing mystery to me) but it was part of the making of these individuals, and then the greater story of overcoming such adversity. It pulled me into the tale and I enjoyed it immensely.
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on May 31, 2014
Vivian is an elderly, childless widow who has a story to tell, but no one who is interested in listening. Molly is a foster child, bounced from family to family. She has become jaded over the years, but still has a good heart buried deep inside. Through a series of events, Molly finds herself needing to work off some community service hours. The mother of her boyfriend works for Vivian as housekeeper, and wants someone, anyone, to get Vivian into her overstuffed attic and clean it out.

What starts out as an assignment in which Molly merely expects to serve out her time turns into a much deeper experience for her. As each box in the attic is opened, Vivian begins to talk about the significance of each item, and through her eyes Molly (and we) see the reality of the Orphan Train experience.

As Vivian relates her life, from Irish immigrant child, to the loss of her family in a tragic fire, to the forced move west on the Orphan Train and the sadness and happiness that come from that, we see Molly grow as well. She, who started out at as cynical and detached, opens up to Vivian and begins to enjoy their time together. In the end, she orchestrates a reunion for Vivian that is both touching and unexpected.

This is a good read. The characters are well developed over the length of the book. The story is engaging, and is true to the period (both flash-back and current). I recommend.
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on February 14, 2017
I noticed all the good reviews and publicity surrounding ORPHAN TRAIN when the book was first published a few years ago. I had ORPHAN TRAIN on my To Be Read list but never got around to reading the novel. I knew the book was based on true stories of children shipped across America in the early part of the last century. When I saw the book was available for review, I signed up pronto, wondering why the publisher was sending it on tour again years later.
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.
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on March 27, 2017
Words cannot express how much I loved this book. From the first page I knew that this was going to be a page-turner. Molly's story on its own made me keep on reading. However , the story of Niamh (Dorothy/Vivian) was 10 times more heartbreaking and uplifting than I anticipated. Parts of this book made me cry like a little girl, I felt all the sorrow and the loneliness of our main protagonist. I also felt joy and hope when she finally got what she longed for her entire life.

There is a lesson in this book not lost on me. Regardless of how many twists and turns your life takes, the people and the circumstances, you will end exactly where you were meant to be. It is the choices you make and how you choose to take what life gives you that makes the difference.

It's an amazing story, one that unfortunately has a base in reality. Orphan children thrown into a system that did not care for their well-being, forced to endure abuse and neglect. We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.

This book has inspired me to look for ways to help children like Niamh and Molly. It really kills me to think of the thousands of children enduring similar situations today.
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on January 18, 2016
This gripping page turner based on American history captivates and grips from beginning to end. It left me wrung out, emotionally exhausted yet smiling hopefully at the end. There is enough loss, human rottenness, resignation and stark reality in this book to wipe the smile from any Pollyanna. Yet there are amazing moments when life lightens and sodden emotional clouds part to breathless clarity palpable with hope when a character encounters a healthy connection with someone. In the book, as in life, it takes but few good connections to convince a battered soul into hanging on and keeping on despite the odds. These gritty girls/women survive, find each other through time and we become a tad more enlightened as to USA history and human nature. Orphan Train, A Novel is a really good read. I particularly recommend it for history buffs, genealogists, adoptees, their parents and fostered children of every age.
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on May 4, 2015
I've read other books about this event in history. It is a sad chapter in our nation's history. Treating children like animals at an auction could hardly ever turn out well for anyone. So, that made this story hard to read because of the continuing tragedy and sadness.

Molly's about-change in her attitude was hard for me to relate to....from Goth to normal, given her circumstances, just didn't seem realistic to me. Also, what Vivian does (not wanting to give anything away) is totally unbelievable. When you truly love someone, you want something to remember them by. You don't discard something so precious so as not to be hurt again. In Vivian's case, she clung to the necklace to remember her Gram by, so why would she do what she did? Why wouldn't she keep a reminder of what she loved best in all the world? Seemed too unlikely. And, the ending was just a little too happy and perfect given the circumstances..
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on September 12, 2013
I am a prolific reader, one who will read just about any genre. However, I still am quite picky and if a story does not grab me within the first few chapters, you could say I'm pretty much done. I don't rely on reviews and I have never felt the need to write one until I read the very last word of "Orphan Train". For the life of me, I can not tell you the last time a novel has sucked me in the way this one has and for once I was not disappointed to come to the end of a story - it was that satisfying and a truly "full circle" ending. I will not go into the details of this novel because others have done so, probably much better than I can, but I will say that if I were to name the best book I've read in who knows when, upon pain of death (well, maybe insurmountable pain), I'd have to name this extraordinary novel by Christina Baker Kline. I'll be sure to try her other novels, but I'm afraid I've been spoiled...
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on April 27, 2017
I am an 8th grade girl who read this book as an independent reading assignment. I loved the book and the messages it leaves.
The book begins with Molly, an orphan girl in 2011 living in a foster home. Her foster mother is upset with her but they soon overcome it. Next, we meet Vivian, a nine-year-old Irish girl in the 1930's who goes by Niamh and must board the orphan train. In the present day, Molly and Vivian meet in the present day, when she is 91. Molly needs community service hours because she's been caught stealing a book from the library. Vivian's attic is full of stuff and Molly's job is to help clean it out. This sets the stage for the interweaving of two tales: Vivian's difficult past as an orphan and Molly's present as a foster child. We then see their stories unfold throughout the book.
Orphan Train is a wonderful novel filled with comparisons of Molly and Vivian. Vivian's story is the subject of the book, the Orphan Train. She had emigrated from Ireland with her family as a young girl. At age nine her family was killed in a tenement fire. She, along with hundreds of other orphans was put on a train headed to Minnesota where, it was hoped they would find people to adopt them. Both are moved many times from home to home and Vivian, though her troubles are more extreme, relates to Molly and they form a friendship that crosses generations.
Vivian was first taken home by a family who only wanted free labor. They would lock the refrigerator, make her sleep in the hallway, and wouldn't let her use the indoor restroom. It went from bad to worse. The next family was extremely poor, with many kids, whom Vivian was expected to take care of. None of the parents worked and the dad would hunt squirrels for the family to eat. All of the children shared a room and the mother was very rude to her. Thanks to her kind teacher at school, who took pity on Vivian, she was rescued and her life began to improve dramatically. Vivian found a happy home and a family that adopted her and gave her the name Vivian, after their daughter who had died. She ends up having a good life.
Molly's life is hard but not as hard as Vivian's. Even though her foster parents don't love her and make her eat meat when she is a vegetarian, she isn't treated like slave labor. Learning of Vivian's harsh childhood gives her perspective on her own life and hope for a better future. Throughout the book, the two women bond and learn from each other.
This is a great historical fiction novel. The only thing I disliked about this book is that it is based on real events in America's history. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a heart-warming tale.
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