Christina Baker Kline’s “Orphan Train” is about self-discovery, acceptance and healing deep-seated emotional wounds.
Kline weaves a beautiful story of an unlikely friendship between Vivian Daly, an elderly immigrant widow, and Molly Ayer, a troubled Native American girl bouncing between foster homes. Molly, an orphan like Vivian, works for Vivian as part of community service.
As Molly’s story unfolds, Vivian sees her own troubled childhood reflected in angry Molly (Kirkus Reviews). Together, Vivian and Molly face the past to accept the future.
The story alternates between narrative of Vivian’s peaceful present-day life and Vivian’s account of her past orphan train experience in 1929.
Orphan trains reportedly transported more than 200,000 homeless children between 1854 and 1929, according to The Social Welfare History Project. Most ended up in hard labor, losing their cultural identities and backgrounds. Others were beaten or ignored. “Orphan Train” touches on this abuse and the ability to be resilient.
Although a work of fiction, the novel represents countless hours of research on orphan train facts. The result is a historically and culturally accurate depiction of the characters’ lives. It highlights “a little-known but historically significant moment in our country’s past,” according to Christina Kline Baker’s website.
My heart went out to both characters. I found myself fighting for them as they were devalued and discarded. I wanted to hug them and speak of their worth and purpose.
I recommend this book for many reasons, but I’ll leave you with this. It sheds light on, first, the history of the orphan train and, second, the trials children will face in the foster system—both internally and externally.
If this review has influenced your decision to read this book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Author: Robyn Robertson
Robyn is an executive administrator at Destiny Adoption Services. She is responsible for marketing initiatives and community relations. As a mother of two, she is dedicated to promoting the message of adoption and finding forever homes for children. Her background in childcare gave her a firsthand look at how special family is. At Destiny Adoption, she’s found a place where she can put her heart into her work.