Monday, May 6, 2013

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Reviewed by Laura Kay

Seventeen year old Molly Ayers needs to log 50 hours of community service to keep her out of juvenile. Vivian Daly is a ninety year old woman who needs someone to help her clean and sort out her attic--an attic filled with childhood memories. On the surface seem to have nothing in common, but as they begin going through the boxes Molly learns a part of history rarely spoken about...Orphan Trains.

Nine year old Vivian finds herself on an Orphan Train in 1929, leaving New York to parts unknown. The train fills up with other young orphans and heads to the Midwest searching for homes for the children. Some will find love, families and others find themselves as nothing more than servants. 

Molly relates because she too is an orphan, a foster child. Always searching for a home and never seeming to find one. The more Vivian shares with Molly, a loner goth, begins letting her guard down. Molly begins opening herself up and realizes she may be able to help Vivian with an unsolved mystery.

I'd never heard about Orphan trains before reading this novel. It always makes me sad when I realize how much history we don't learn about in school. The novel goes back and forth between Vivian's past and current Molly (with her having a few flash backs of her own). The majority of the book is more about Vivian's past, which I was completely engrossed in. Ms. Kline I felt really wrote young Vivian so well. I could picture her and I wanted to reach out a help this young girl and allow her a childhood. As Vivian got older you could see even though she found happiness, she had been so hurt as a child it made her make a choice that broke my heart (sorry not going to spoil it!). 

I warmed up to Molly, but didn't really connect with her as much. There is tension with her foster mom Dina. The tension between Dina and Molly didn't work for me. Dina is written as a strong opinionated woman and to say she was fostering because of her husband just didn't make me a believer or the reasons she supposedly didn't like Molly. This for me was the only aspect that didn't work for me. I did enjoy the changes we see in Molly because of her relationship with Vivian, how she begins to come out of herself to help someone else and is loved in return. 

After reading just a few pages of Orphan Train, I had a hard time putting the book down. I ended the book with tears and wanting more. I wasn't ready to leave Molly and Vivian. I am highly recommending Orphan Train. This is one book you really don't want to miss out on experiencing. 

May Book Club Selection from She Reads is Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

and William Morrow publishers are giving away ten copies over on the She Reads website! 
Just follow the link to the She Reads website (here's the link!) and leave a comment there! 

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Buy your copy of Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

The books we review on this site (A NOVEL REVIEW) are sent to us by publishers, authors or downloaded from Netgalley. This is a very common practice.  We never take payments for these reviews and all the reviews on this site are our own thoughts and feelings and are not influenced.


  1. I loved this book as well. I had heard of orphan trains but the very idea horrifies me. Those poor kids must have been so scared and the people that would come pick them out like they were groceries. It really bothered me. Thankfully some ended up in good homes like Vivian eventually does. I'm completely with you on that choice that Vivian makes - it broke my heart too.

  2. Great review, thanks!!! I too loved this book and am keeping it as part of my permanent collection. I felt sooo sorry for Vivian when she lived with the Grote family. I wanted to reach into the pages of the book and rescue her. My heart just weeped for her. It was an amazing book for sure.


  3. It was such a heart breaking story that I really enjoyed. Good point about the Molly and Dina relationship.

  4. I agree that the disconnect between Dina and Molly was tense, but unfortunately that's how a lot of foster homes are. Like BookBagLady, my heart broke when reading about the Grote family but reminded me a bit of Salvage the Bones.

  5. I had never heard of these orphan trains, either, Laura. Loved this book!

  6. I also could not put this book down! But now I want to learn more about the orphan trains and the real kids that were part of them.

    Here's my review of Orphan Train!

  7. One more demonstration of how one person can make an enormous difference in the life of a young person "at risk", and how our live overlap others' live in so many ways. An easy read, and so enjoyable!

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