Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Title: Orphan Train
Author: Christina Baker Kline
Publisher: William Morrow/Harper Collins 2 April 2013
Genre: Fiction
Labels: Historical Fiction, Orphan, Orphan Train, Adoption, Coming of Age Story
Format: Paperback
Age: Adult
Pages: 304
Rating: 4 Stars

According to Wikipedia there were greater than 250,000 children that were transported to new homes during the years 1853-1929. After research and interviews of several surviving Orphan Train children, the author wanted to write a story portraying a realistic life story. Engaging both good points and negative points of a new life planned for a child.

Two lives become intermingled by their life stories, current situations, and the ability to understand and trust one another, but both are of differing generations. Vivian Daly is age 91. She lives alone in her Maine home. Molly Ayer is age 17. She is currently living with a foster family in Maine. Molly is hired to help Vivian clean up and out some boxes in her attic. Molly reluctantly begins her job. Vivian uses this opportunity to tell Molly her own story.

My Thoughts:
  • What I most loved about Orphan Train was Vivian's story. The book could have been poorly written, and the background clumsy, but Vivian's story carried the book. Her life story is transparent, moving, and decidedly transparent. While reading I felt the emotions of anger, anxiety, sadness to the point of tears, and tender moments of joy. Vivian's story provokes a reaction. Molly's story is significant, yet I did not feel absorbed in her life story. I felt her character was more of a tool for Vivian.
  • Other children that are apart of the Orphan Train are briefly introduced. The author gave a realistic voice to them. Their fears, anxieties, sadness, and that their feelings and opinions did not matter and thus they didn't have a voice. There were no choices for them, they had to do what grown-ups had envisioned for them. This pattern carried throughout the story, the feeling of not being heard and thus valid. My heart ached for them.
  • Vivian, during the course of her adult life reflected back on her childhood and young adult life, her thoughts and conclusions are brought forth in the story. To me this is normal to reflect back on whatever kind of life we've had. Whether good or bad memories, we ponder how we came to be where we are. This element gave a breadth to the story.
  • I read a few reviews on Amazon about Orphan Train. The cursing was not liked by a few. This is an adult book, and to give reality to the characters the author gave them the words she thought they'd use. Having said this, it would need to be up to the parent or youth if they don't mind a few 4 letter words. Just because we've heard 4 letter words in passing by other people doesn't mean we want to read them in a book. There are adult situations and traumatic events in the book as well. Same advice. A parent gets to decide these issues.
Street Children 1890
Author's website:

I bought my copy @ Target for 20% off cover price.

Link @ Amazon:
Paperback $9.95
Kindle $9.45