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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Orphan Train
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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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VINE VOICEon February 4, 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
On the coast of Maine lives a wealthy ninety-one year old woman named Vivian Daly. Yet in her attic are trunks that reveal the secrets of her turbulent past.

It is the year 2011, and nearby in the same town of Spruce Harbor, lives a seventeen-year-old girl named Molly Ayer who has bounced from foster home to foster home, and is now in a situation involving petty theft that will require some kind of community service.

Told in beautifully evocative prose, the story unfolds in alternate perspectives, revealing what has happened to each of them, and how the parallel lines of their lives now converge to spotlight the similarities between them.

From Vivian's early childhood in Ireland, to New York City, comes her passage on the Orphan Trains in 1929. A journey that will take her to Minnesota, from one home to another, never really knowing what home feels like, as she is treated like a slave and seldom has enough of anything, much less affection or love.

What Molly sees when she meets the elderly woman is a wealthy person who could not begin to understand her or her issues. But as the two of them clean out the boxes in the attic, the stories they share with one another reveal so much more than either could have suspected.

The characters, both the primary ones and the supporting ones, brought so much color and emotion to the stories that I could feel as though I were sitting in their midst, observing and listening to them. And as I neared the end of Orphan Train: A Novel, I really could not have imagined a more beautiful or satisfying conclusion, and with it came a feeling that these characters would live on in my memories.

At one point, Molly is at Vivian's home, taking in her recent good fortune:

"Sitting in the rocker in the kitchen, looking out at the water, Molly feels oddly at peace. For the first time since she can remember, her life is beginning to make sense. What up until this moment has felt like a random, disconnected series of unhappy events she now views as necessary steps in a journey toward...enlightenment is perhaps too strong a word, but there are others, less lofty, like self-acceptance and perspective...."

It is impossible to read this story and not take away from it the knowledge that wonderfully unexpected moments can happen in a life, even in one that is full of turbulence, pain, loss, and the sense of being an outsider. And when such moments occur, it is also impossible not to celebrate. Or feel the sense of exuberance that comes with the gifts of love, acceptance, and second chances. A story with a perfect ending that I won't share here, for fear of spoiling it for the reader. Suffice it to say that you will love Vivian and Molly and will feel the joy of their unique connection. Five stars.
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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 November 9, 2016
A story that very well could have been based on facts??? This parallel story between a modern day girl that is caught up in the system and an older woman that had been on one of the orphans from an orphan train and caught up in that system. Circumstances cause situations that were often beyond the control of the person involved. The interwoven stories showed restoration and hope for both characters. I didn't like the fact the not telling the truth was reinforced in several situations but I have no alternative solutions to prevent the lies. The ending was awesome!!!
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on September 30, 2016
Molly became an orphan following the death of her father and her mother's decent into a world of drugs and alcohol. Her world is a mess as a result of being passed from foster home to foster home and a teenage mistake that results in her being assigned 50 hours of community service. Vivian is 91 years old and is an Irish immigrant who became orphaned during the great depression. The lives of both women are changed forever when they come together as a result the community service project assigned to Molly.

It would truly be a shame if I gave this book anything less than a five-stare rating. Books having strong, believable characters are fairly common but it is rare when you read a book that has true depth. As Molly and Vivian reflect on their past, we experience a heart-warming story that depicts the desperation and suffering people faced during the great depression. Will our journey through time with Molly and Vivian end in disaster or will it show the reader once again that clouds do sometimes have a silver lining? Only the reader will know.

An excellent read .. I highly recommend this book.
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on May 16, 2016
The Orphan Trains operated from the 1850's until 1929 to shuttle abandoned children from New York City to midwestern cities where the children were put on display so that they could be chosen by a couple that was willing to take in the child. There were no background checks, nor any questions asked as to the suitability of the couple that wanted to take in the child. The couple was allowed to return the child after a 90 day trial period if the placement didn't work out. Many of the children were essentially used as slave labor on farms and in factories, though some did find loving and stable homes. Kline's novel shines a light on that historical practice, by telling the story of Niamh, a 9-year old Irish immigrant girl orphaned when a fire destroyed her family's home and took the lives of her parents and siblings.

The story unfolds from the perspective of Vivian, a former orphan, now 91-years old, living alone in a mansion in Maine surrounded by her years of accumulated possessions and 17-year old Molly, a foster child who is shunted from one foster home to another when she doesn't fit in. Molly has been charged with a petty theft and is allowed to do 50 hours of community service instead of time in the juvenile detention facility. Her boyfriend, whose mother works for Vivian, recommends her as an assistant to the old woman to help her sort through the decades of stuff in her attic. During the process, Vivian's story unfolds and Molly learns that they have travelled similar paths, though 80 years apart. The novel alternates between the years of 1929 and early 1930's and 2011.

I was thoroughly engrossed by the story, right up until the end and there were some interesting plot developments for both characters. Both had lived through misery, degradation and squalor, and had survived it and become stronger. The relationship that developed between Vivian and Molly was admirable, though the development of Molly's character in the novel seemed a bit lacking. Some of the dialogue was rather unrealistic for a 17 year old. Additionally, the peripheral characters where very one-dimensional and stereotyped, such as the Grote's from whose home Vivian escaped, and the couple that is currently fostering Molly who are characterized as in it only for the money. The lack of complex characterization lead me to believe that this was more of a YA novel than one intended for a more mature audience.

I was quite annoyed that the Kindle file included a significant excerpt of the author's next novel, Sweet Water. The Orphan Train story ended when the file was at only 89%, leading me to believe that there was much more to follow in this interesting saga; but I turned the page and it was over! Fully 10% of the file was consumed with an excerpt of another novel. I felt a bit cheated that the Orphan Train ended so abruptly.

4.5 Stars !
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on July 6, 2016
Really great read. It had plenty of intensity and great historical perspective. I liked the way the two stories interwove. I thought Vivian was a little sad--not allowing herself to love--but it was remedied nicely at the end. Very touching.

There is a little graphic action in the middle (SPOILER ALERT: attempted rape scene) which was hard to read. It wasn't especially graphic or sexual, but the mood and actions are pretty terrible and it is painful, as a mother, to read that. But pretty central to the story as well. Just awful to imagine...
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VINE VOICEon March 5, 2014
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline tells the story of two women, one a teenager in foster care and the other, a 91 year old living out her last days in a rambling old house on the coast of Maine. Molly must work off her community service hours for stealing a copy of Jane Eyre from the local library by cleaning the Vivian’s attic.

While these two women seem far removed from each other culturally, they have a bond that transcends time. As Molly opens each box that has been housed in the attic she learns of the old lady’s past; that Vivian had come to NYC from Ireland in 1929 and soon suffered the loss of her family in a tenement fire. Vivian is chosen by the Children’s Aide Society to board the Orphan Train and travel to the Midwest to become what can only be considered an indentured servant.

We learn Molly’s back story which has brought her to this place in Maine where she is being fostered by an overbearing Police Dispatcher and her spineless husband. Molly was born the daughter of a Penobscot Indian and her history in the foster program is almost as heart wrenching as that of Vivian.

The story oscillates between these two and the chronology that defines their years of developing, the many people and events that influenced for good or ill, the women they became. Vivian talks about the things she’s left behind and says: “I learned long ago that loss is not only probably but inevitable”. It is hard to imagine that there can be redemption in this tale of throw-away children. The bravest words I found in the book are: You don’t need to find yourself; you just need the courage to BE yourself.

This is a wonderful fictionalized account of one of the most distressing times in our history as Americans and the throw-away children we failed.
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on July 9, 2015
This is the story of two women, one a troubled, young teenager, one an elderly woman, in her 90's, whose lives come together in a remarkable twist of fate. Both are orphans, both have a remarkable, if not tragic, story to tell. Christina Baker Kline did a splendid job of telling each woman's story. In the early part of the 20th century, orphaned children were shipped across the nation aboard trains to be handed over like livestock to anyone who wanted them. They were not adopted into loving, caring homes. They were worked like animals, living in filthy surroundings, starved, beaten and abused. Few received the education that was promised when they were handed off to families in the midwest with little ceremony. A few papers were signed and the children were carted off to new homes, more often than not, to be worked like they weren't quite human. They were given new names, often new religions and were expected to conform with little training or guidance. If they had a talent, it was exploited and their new families pocketed any income that came of it. Rarely, was a child adopted and taken home to be loved and cherished by their new families. Dorothy, as she came to be known, lost her immigrant, Irish family in a tenement fire in New York City when she was nine. After a long train ride across the country, and two nightmarish adoptions, she finally was adopted into a loving home. She is 91 when she meets Molly, a rebellious teenager who has been shuffled from one foster home to another. Molly only meets Dorothy as part of a detention project where she is supposed to serve 50 hours by helping Dorothy clean out her attic. The result is a remarkable friendship that is formed by the two women. Molly ends up helping Dorothy to not only organize her attic, but face her past and claim what is hers. The Orphan Train is one of those books I enjoyed reading so much that I hoped it would never end. But, of course, it did end. However, I still think about it, every day. When a book impacts a reader like that, it deserves five stars.
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on November 13, 2015
This captivating story grabs you from the very first page when a ninety-one year old woman begins talking about believing in ghosts. She begins to talk about the spirits and ghosts from her past keep telling her to go on. The next page shifts to a rebellious, seventeen year old Indian Goth girl named Molly, who is listening to a fuzz between her foster parents because Molly is facing Juvenile Detention for stealing a book from the library. This begins the touching parallel stories of the two women whose lives as orphans slowly emerge to create a beautiful bond of friendship. Vivian, the old lady, and Molly become involved when Molly is forced to do fifty hours of community service or go to jail for stealing a book from the library. Molly is to help Vivian go through the numerous boxes stored in her attic. As they open boxes, Vivian's story of her transport on the "Orphan Train" from New York City to Minnesota, to her present home in Maine begins to emerge. As Molly begins to see the similarities in their childhood and suffering through moves to foster homes, she begins to develop an interest in Vivian's life and reveals her own story. These two independent and strong women will develop a bond that will bring life changes that will enrich both their lives. This fiction novel is based on the historical orphan trains that existed from 1854 to 1929. More than two hundred thousand orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children were transported to Midwestern towns and cities to begin new lives with either loving families or in homes where the child would be little more than unpaid labor. This is a fascinating story!
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