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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 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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VINE VOICEon December 24, 2014
ORPHAN TRAIN REVIEW

The orphan train movement in the United States between1853 and 1929 is not a well-known social welfare program. It was sponsored for the most part by the Children's Aid Society and relocated over 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children from the East coast to foster homes in the Midwest. The children ranged in age from 4 to 18; some were even younger. Notices announcing the arrival of the trains were posted in mainly rural areas and residents were invited to view and inspect the children and, if deemed suitable, they could be taken home. The program was ended with the advent of organized foster care in America.

Times were hard, food was scarce, and some children received wretched care from their foster parents. Others were fortunate enough to be received into well-off circumstances. The spectrum of their stories is wide and varied. Christina Baker Kline, author of "Orphan Train," became interested in the story of these children, conducted an enormous amount of research, and has written a beautiful account of an orphan train survivor who bonds in later years with a contemporary young woman who is experiencing personal hardships of her own. And so a seventeen-year old rebel struggling to find her way and a ninety-one year wealthy old lady who survived her early years as a train orphan come together in a touching and healing relationship that develops into a remedy for their mutual loneliness.

Vivian is the survivor of crushing poverty in rural Ireland, the immigrant turmoil of late 1920 in New York City, the loss of her family in a fire, and a subsequent train trip with strangers to a land of poverty, ignorance, mistreatment, and abuse. She is nine-years old when her journey by train begins.

Molly, a contemporary nonconformist, has been in and out of numerous foster homes and refuses to bend to someone else's idea of how to conduct her life. She has a tattoo, piercings, and dyed hair. She has trouble controlling her mouth, getting along with others, and is fiercely independent. Her boyfriend has learned that he is simply along for the ride and operates under Molly's rule.

Molly is given community service for stealing a book from the public library and, as a last resort before she has to serve time, she agrees to help the elderly Vivian clean out her attic. As they work together sorting through the debris of Vivian's past, life's stories are revealed, similar experiences are shared, and closeness develops. Molly provides the steady companionship that Vivian has never enjoyed, and the elderly woman provides encouragement and purpose to Molly's unanchored existence.

This is a marvelous book written with clarity and filled with historical accounts based on careful research. The relationship between the two women as described by the author is poignant and demonstrates the importance of taking time to listen to each other. I enjoyed the book greatly and highly recommend it.

Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES
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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 January 20, 2014
A friend very highly recommended this book, so I was excited to read it. It was a very quick read, and I enjoyed it, but ultimately didn't think it was very successful. It's a genre that I enjoy, historical fiction, but interesting to me more on the historical side than the fiction side. I didn't think the fictional story was all that compelling, and the central conceit -- the intertwined stories of a troubled current-day Maine teen and a nonagenarian "orphan train" survivor -- fell flat in my view. The chapters on the Maine girl were uninteresting to me, and the parallels between the two girls' lives a little too obvious. The story of the "orphan train" girl also seemed a little cliched, and frankly there wasn't a lot of rich description of places or characters -- the plot just kind of moved along in a jerky fashion. There's a fateful fire in New York, which seemed to be nothing more than a plot contrivance to get our heroine on her way, and then a series of "Perils of Pauline" pitfalls as she encounters a series of rather one-dimensional villains. I won't say more without giving things away, but every major plot twist just seemed to come out of the blue. It all just seemed a bit amateurish to me, although the underlying historical "orphan train" was interesting, and previously unknown, to me. So, while this was a perfectly entertaining and quick read, I was just left with the frustrating feeling that it could have been so much better.
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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 March 31, 2016
This book was unlike anything else I'd read lately, so I really enjoyed it. It bounces back and forth between the present and the past, in a way that's easy to follow. The present is the story of a teenager in the foster system who works with an older lady to finish some community service hours. The past is the story of a girl whose family dies in a fire and is sent on an orphan train to the midwest to be adopted. I loved the ways these two stories intertwined throughout the book, and even though they are set in such different time periods/places, there are so many similarities between these two girls' lives. I had no idea the orphan train was a real thing! Though this book is fiction, it opened my eyes to a piece of history that was new to me.
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on November 25, 2014
Maybe my expectations were too high after reading other reviews but I found the mainframe story of Molly the goth foster kid to be painfully cliche. Sprinkled with the occasional awkward profanity or sexual encounter to convince of her wayward nature, it was trite and predictable and read like a second-tier Hallmark Hall of Fame movie or Maeve Binchy novel. The flashback story of Niamh was much more engaging and was like a poor shadow of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I skipped much of the present-tense story to find out what happened to the character I kind of cared about and called that good.
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on May 25, 2014
Having no idea what an "orphan train" was, I delved into this book with some curiosity and found I couldn't put it down. The story follows an unlikely pair: a 91 year old wealthy widow and a 17 year old troubled teen who is trapped in the foster care system. The riveting tale delves into the life of the foster care program in the 1920's and the orphan trains that took children from the streets of New York City and transported them to a "better life" in the state of Minnesota, and a peek at the current foster care system. Both women begin to open up to each other about their past and manage to deal with the "ghosts" that occupy their lives. Thoroughly enjoyable.
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