Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Genre: Historical/Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 2nd April 2013
Time/Pages: 8hrs 21mins/294
Narrator: Jessica Almasy, Suzanne Toren
Book Source: Own audio

Synopsis:  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.

My Thoughts: 
Put simply ... I adored Orphan Train and didn't want it to end! I've read quite a few fictionalised stories about the Orphan Train Movement, My Notorious Life by Kate Manning being one of the best. Orphan Train joins illustrious ranks on my favourite's bookshelf; its quiet strength and beauty just as compelling as the powerful, My Notorious Life. 

At almost 18, Molly has 50 hours of community service to complete for stealing a library book ... enter 91 year old Vivian Daly. Molly helps Vivian clean out her attic and becomes a vehicle for Vivian's story. Orphan Train seamlessly transitions between present day Maine and the early 1900's as the orphan trains take children from New York to the midwest and sadly, an uncertain life. Delicate layers peel away, revealing long kept secrets and a story that simultaneously breaks and warms your heart. 

As cliched as it sounds, what a joy it was to share Vivian's heartbreaking, courageous and inspirational journey and Molly & Vivian's unique connection. Narrated beautifully with such authenticity I felt like a participant in their rare friendship rather than an observer. I felt their losses, shared their joys, I laughed and cried and cheered as they both found a sense of belonging. 

To borrow words from The Homecoming of Samuel Lake (another favourite read) ... it's "enough to make your heart fill up and burst."

Recommend: A heartfelt yes ... don't wait! 

Connect with Christina Baker Kline


  1. Totally agree with you, this was a special audio, and I am really pleased that I opted to listen to the audio of it, rather than read it, as it just took me right into it. It was my first orphan train story, I must look up the Kate Manning one.

    1. me too Kathryn! I don't know why I waited so long to read (listen) to it. My Notorious Life is a harrowing read but I loved it and I've heard the audio is excellent. I read that one.

  2. She stole a library book! The horror ;)

  3. I have heard amazing things about this!! Need to read it!!!!!!!!

  4. I am probably one of the last ones to get to this book. I am thinking I will listen .

    1. Don't know why it took me so long to get to it Nise but the audio was great, I'm sure you'll love it too!!

  5. Replies
    1. hope you enjoy it as much as I did Mystica :)

  6. I absolutely loved this book, too...and now I must read My Notorious Life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My favorite part was the unique connection between Molly and Vivian. And my heart did kind of "fill up and burst."

  7. I've been resisting this one and yours is the first review to make me want to read it.

  8. I have had this on and off the TBR for months but your review is so infectious it is now firmly back on! There is no better praise than 'I didn't want it to end'

  9. This was so interesting because it was a part of history that I never knew about. Yes I realize it was fictional but never the less based on what did actually happen to some children. The information and pictures the author added at the end of the book were indeed quite amazing. I would highly recommend this book! I think this story needs to be heard by all.

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