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4.6 out of 5 stars
Orphan Train
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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 April 2, 2013
I continue to be amazed at the things I learn about the history of this country from reading books. Orphan Train is based in fact; from the mid 19th century through the first quarter of the 20th century there was no system for dealing with orphans or what we would consider foster children today. It was left to churches and charitable organizations. And for those who feel that they are best left to deal with these social issues, I suggest you research the orphan trains because their solution was to take the children into various cities and give them away to anyone who wanted a child. No background checks, no follow up, no nothing. These children were left with people in the hopes that they would be given a good life. Some were, many were nothing more than house slaves. I'll get off the soapbox now.

The book juxtaposes two lives - that of young Molly, a foster child of the current generation who lives with a family that is divided as to her presence. The "father" is pleasant to her and sees the good in Molly but the "mother" would rather she be gone and in all truth is only doing the foster thing for the money it brings into the household. The second life is that of Vivian - born Niamh, who becomes Dorothy and ultimately Vivian as she is left alone in New York after her family is killed in a fire. She is taken in by Children's Aid and sent West on an Orphan Train to hopefully find a new home. What she finds at first is mistreatment, suspicion and abuse.

While on the train she meets some other orphans one of whom will play an important role in her life. Most of the other characters, though fade into the background as the story focuses on Vivian and Molly and how the two of them reconcile their pasts which are not as different as they might think.

I sped through the first 2/3rds of this book totally enthralled with Vivian's story. Molly's life was really not as interesting or as fleshed out as Vivian's and I suppose that since the book IS titled Orphan Train it should be focused on Vivian. Once the book hit the point in the story that moved it to the present it was as if all the rich detail that made the first part so compelling went out the window. There was an OMG moment in the book and then everything was rushed and it became, at least to me, a book of what could have been.

It was as if the author had only so many pages left and had to fit in more information than allotted space. I felt cheated somehow and very disappointed. The book could have been so much more and I feel the loss of what I know I've missed.

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on September 16, 2016
Can you imagine a childhood beginning with losing everything and everyone who mattered to you? Thousands of children were given up by desperate parents and gathered up with poverty-stricken, homeless orphans and put on orphan trains bound from the crowded East coast cities to the Midwest.

This is the story of a young woman in today's foster care system who serves 50 court-ordered community service hours for an elderly woman. The two develop a friendship based on their shared background, Although wealthy now, the woman began as a young Irish immigrant girl who spent her early life in rural Minnesota after being on an orphan train from New York.

The two main characters, Vivian and Molly, are well-drawn and likable. The development of their relationships with each other and with others in the book were believable and made for an interesting storyline.

I loved reading about the orphan train children and the hugely diverse situations in which they found themselves. For some, it was an opportunity to have a better life right away, but for others a positive outcome came after great struggle.

I've already read the book twice and fully expect I will read it again and again.
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on March 7, 2016
Christina Baker Kline is the author of Orphan Train. Christina has also written five novels: Orphan Train, Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water. She is co-editor, with Anne Burt, of About Face. Christina taught literature and creative writing at Yale, NYU, UVA, and Drew University. Christina Kline is a recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge foundation fellowship and several research fellowships. Christina Kline also has been a writer-in-Residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Christina Kline’s writing style is very motivating. Christina’s books can be historic and she makes you feel sympathetic towards her characters. Orphan Train is a fiction book. The intended audience for this book is for people who seek closure or people who like to read about historical events. The purpose of this book is to inform the readers of what happened in the 19th century. The title fits in because it is about Orphans on a Train. The title is applied because, it is about Orphans who become friends to help solve mysteries of their past. I found that the novel was very interesting and eye opening. The author does not give information away in the Prologue. A guest author: Bunny McBride, Women of the Dawn, provides an Epigraph in the novel. Bunny McBride gave away that there is a lot of people that are going to be moving from place to place. “It required leaving some things behind.” The book is arranged in sections.
The book cover is a picture of a little girl look out of the window of a train with a quote from Ann Packer. On the back cover is it a summary of the book and it says about the author. Also on the front page it tells you that it is a number one New York Times Bestseller.
Molly Ayer- One of the lead characters, a shy, adolescent within the foster care system who hides behind a grunge appearance. Ethnically, she is a Penobscot Indian on her father’s side. She was entered into the foster care system when her father passed away in a car accident and her mother got put in jail.
Vivian Daily- Was sent on the Orphan Train when she was younger from New York. She returned later in life to live on the coast of Maine.
Hans- An orphan similar in age to Niamh who becomes friends with Niamh on the Orphan Train.
Jack- Molly’s friend, the son of a Dominican father and mother, who currently works for Vivian Daly. Jack’s father left Jack’s mother after a one-night stand.
The Theme in the story that stands out is that there is Orphans on a Train that are trying to discover who they are and what life is about to throw at them. I think it is accessible to all readers because, it is the main idea of the story.
The argument of this novel is learn from the past. The author gives support to her findings because, Vivian was put on the Orphan Train when her family passed away but when she grew up and got married her husband died and she was to devastated to take care of the child she put her own baby on the orphan train.
The main idea of the book is that there is a nineteen year old girl who is on the Orphan Train and is about to get kicked out of the system because of her age. There is also a ninety one year old woman who is telling her story as the young girl is living it. The main idea is different than most books but that makes it a good read because, you are getting told two different stories at the same time.
The Orphan Train is about a nineteen year old girl named Molly. Molly got put on the orphan train because her father died in a car accident and her mother got put in jail for drugs. Throughout the story Molly is living her life while ninety one year old Vivian is telling her story. Vivian got put on the orphan train when she was young because her family died in a fire. But later on in the book she repeats her own history.
Publisher Price for Orphan Train is $9.99 on Amazon. Year published was April 2, 2013.
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on December 28, 2016
I got this book without really knowing what it was about. I just saw that it had a high rating and was read by many many people.

I loved this book so much I couldn't stop reading it once I started it. The journey of Niamh, was full of heartbreak, hope, joy, and love. The author did a great job incorporating small but important details about the children on the train and the different things they might go through. She made it easy to imagine the whole book unfolding almost as if you were watching it on the television. I really enjoy books like this that leave me with a heavy heart about how bad the past could be but at the end leaves me feeling joy for the success and love that were found from overcoming such harsh lifestyles.

To be honest I liked Niamh's story better than Molly's. But I like how the author incorporated the two and found a way for Vivian to reflect on her past as a way of telling her story.

This is a book that captured my attention from the start and one that I will recommend for years to come.
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on October 28, 2017
I really liked this book. It was two stories in one book. Often it is difficult for me to keep two stories straight but with this book I did not have a problem. It was interesting how the girl who was an orphan on the train became friends with Dutchy and finally met him again and married him. This book was difficult to put down. I liked how the older woman and the teenager became friends.
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on December 7, 2017
A beautifully told tale of 2 disparate young women carrying forth in their lives, conjoined by heartbreaking realizing her own struggle through the eyes of a 90 year old, their unlikely friendship begun as the penance of the teenager’s ‘crime’ of swiping a book from the library... Lovely & emotional, a most satisfying story, based on a side note of American immigration of the most vulnerable citizens, our children.
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on April 1, 2016
If Orphan Train has been on your to-read list since its release in 2013, consider bumping it up to your must-read-right-now list.

I had been skirting around Christina Baker Kline’s bestselling novel and finally picked it up when I saw she was coming to the Des Moines Public Library’s Authors Visiting in Des Moines (AViD) series.

Orphan Train author Christina Baker Kline speaks at the Des Moines Public Library's AViD Series.
Orphan Train author Christina Baker Kline speaks at the Des Moines Public Library’s AViD Series.
Every once in a while, a good book comes along and steals your heart in a way that reinforces your love for stories, your compassion for characters and your view of the world. That is what Orphan Train did for me.

The orphan train movement is a well-kept secret of America’s history. From 1854 through 1929, orphan trains transported over 200,000 abandoned children from the East Coast to the Midwest. Children on these trains were advertised to Midwesterners as workers, and adoption was never required.

Although several self-published nonfiction narratives exist on the subject, written by either train riders or descendants, I believe Kline’s decision to write her retelling of the movement as fiction best allowed the story to come through and connect with millions of readers in a way that it might not have done as nonfiction.

For my full review, please check out my blog post: [...]
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on April 17, 2016
I loved this book. It's an unexpected story, beautifully told. Some of the reviewers complain about stereotypical characters, but I disagree. What children in these types of situations endured in their displacement is rarely straightforward, welcoming new homes. This fact is highlighted when the author describes the people who chaperone them on the train as well as the foster families who select the children to work for them in their homes. Of course, the people who take them in can run the gamut, but it is very hard to fit into a whole new family of strangers and a new way of life. Imagine being a frightened child, alone, with no power, living a life of indentured servitude, not to mention possibly beaten and emotionally starved and mistreated. In this sense, it does tell the history of the life that so many, if not most, of these orphan train children endured.

There is complexity in the parallel stories of Molly and Vivian. I felt that the historical nature of this novel is the backdrop of the story. It is not a book where you learn a great deal about the Orphan Trains -- how long they existed and other historical information. Molly and Vivian's feelings and perspectives are woven into a compelling story about a certain type of survival and growth against unique odds. It is a touching novel.
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on January 19, 2018
This a competently written book that primarily suffers from stuttered pacing and a clumsy descriptive style. The plot is compelling, but the writing lacks the seamless rhythm that great novels possess. I noticed in the book I have, that all of the reviews are written by other authors, not book critic sources. Perhaps that's what some authors do - heap praise on fellow writers they know and want to support. I don't see this a Young Adult book though, just a modestly capable rendition of a potentially mesmerizing story. Three stars.
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