Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.
Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.
Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.
Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.
How have I never heard of the actual Orphan Train? That just boggles my mind. Unless I have heard of it in history class oh so many years ago, and just forgot, which well may be the case.
I love books about relationships so I figured I’d enjoy this book. It’s about 17 year old Molly and 91 year old Vivian, who are brought together because Molly has to do 50 hours community service for stealing a book (if you’re going to steal something, a book is a good choice) and gets hired through her boyfriend Jack, and his mom Terry who works for Vivian, and is tasked with the job of going through all the “stuff” Vivian has in her attic. Boxes and boxes of old things Vivian can’t seem to let go of.
Through their time together, Molly and Vivian start sharing stories of their lives. Each have some good and lots o terrible tales to tell. The book alternates between their stories, starting with Molly and how she ended up working for Vivian. Parts of her character reminded me of a few people I know and I enjoyed reading about her life very much. But, Vivian’s life from the first sentence to the last was so interesting, and really brought on lots of feelings. The story of the children on the train and her bonding with Dutchy , the terrible things she had to go through, all of it was so interesting I had to force myself to put the book down so I could do things that had to be done.
There were also a few things that left me with my mouth hanging open.
Shocked me so much that I had to stop and think it through before going on.
This book was definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. I had it on my tbr list for years, and wish I’d have read it sooner.
If you haven’t read this one yet I hope you will soon, and I hope you love it as much as I do. Oh, and if you’re a crier, make sure you have some tissues handy.