Monday, April 15, 2013
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
William Morrow - Historical/contemporary fiction
278 pp. plus extra P.S. insights and reader's guide
Source: My friend Paula sent me her ARC of Orphan Train and then a copy arrived from HarperCollins. The finished copy has a very interesting P.S. section with more info on orphan trains.
What it's about:
Molly is 17 and has been in foster care since her father died. In trouble for stealing, she can either go to juvenile detention or do community service. Her boyfriend's mother works for an elderly woman who needs help cleaning out her attic and manages to get Molly lined up to help Vivian as a substitute for more typical community service hours.
Vivian Daly has lived in Maine since her retirement. In her youth, she immigrated from Ireland but lost her entire family and was sent west on an orphan train. Her attic holds a wealth of mementoes from a life well-lived.
As Molly and Vivian begin to sort through Vivian's attic, they discover that their lives bear some uncanny parallels. Orphan Train alternates between Molly's story in present-day Maine and Vivian's tale from her traumatic childhood to just after WWII.
What I loved about Orphan Train:
I absolutely loved learning about the orphan trains in America -- a piece of history that was totally unknown to me -- and thought the author did a fantastic job of comparing life as a foster child with life as an orphan who was more likely to end up being used as a common laborer than loved and adopted. But, most importantly, I loved both Molly and Vivian (or Niamh, pronounced "Neev", her given name). I cared about them and because I wanted to know how their stories would end the pages flew.
One scene I particularly loved is a conversation in which Vivian asks Molly what she got in trouble for stealing. When Vivian finds out Molly stole a copy of Jane Eyre, Vivian's reaction is priceless.
What I disliked:
The only thing I disliked about Orphan Train was the fact that I thought it would have been a bit nicer to reveal Vivian's story through dialogue with Molly, rather than in alternating chapters. I think it would have given the book a little more emotional impact. But, it wasn't written that way and I still loved Orphan Train.
Highly recommended. Likable characters, a fascinating storyline with nicely-drawn parallels, a fascinating peek into a part of American History I knew nothing about and a satisfying ending made Orphan Train a book I set down with a (mildly soggy) smile on my face.
No malarkey or twaddle, this week:
I have a lot of catch-up to do, after last week's unexpected loss of blogging mojo, so I'm going to try to write at least one review per day. "Try" is the operative word. I still don't feel much like writing, but we'll see how it goes.
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I really want to read this one, and can't wait to get it! I know so little about the orphan trains, and I have a soft spot for stories about children without families. I am so glad that you loved this one and that you gave it a thumbs up. It sounds wonderful!!ReplyDelete
Heather, I thought it was a wonderful read. I had never even heard of orphan trains. I hope you love Orphan Train as much as I did, when you get to it!Delete
I'll be reading this soon and you've made me even more excited to do so! I'm especially interested in learning about the history of the orphan trains because I had zero idea of them!ReplyDelete
Me, too! I hadn't even heard of them. Books that teach you something entirely new are exciting, aren't they? Hope you love it as much as I did, Jennifer!Delete
I'm anxious to get a copy of this, as several friends at work have said it's very good!ReplyDelete
I finally found my blogging mojo this weekend. Cranked out five reviews! Of course, now I want to post them over a long period of time so I don't have a big dry spell. ;) Only two more to draft and I'll be caught up. Finally!!
Cool, I'm glad your work buddies enjoyed it! I love the two main characters.Delete
Wahoo for blogging mojo! I think it's a good idea to go ahead and pre-set the dates to spread your reviews out if you've managed a bunch at once. I do that on occasion.
Oo! I want to read this. It sounds like a fascinating story. I'm not too familiar with the orphan trains in America, so that aspect especially interests me.ReplyDelete
It's a good story, Wendy. I knew nothing at all about orphan trains in America, so the learning experience was fun.Delete
I think I first learned about orphan trains from Laura Moriarity's novel The Chaperone. Did you read that one? It's pretty good as well. Will look for this one, thanks.ReplyDelete
I haven't read The Chaperone, although I do have an e-copy. Cool! That's a good one to consider reading on vacation, then. Thanks!Delete