Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#17 [2014/CBR6] "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline

The orphan train movement "transported a reported two hundred thousand children from the East Coast to the Midwest between 1854 and 1929." (273)

Somewhere, at some point, I heard about Orphan Train (2013) by Christina Baker Kline and I apparently decided it should be on my reading list. For reasons I cannot remember, I thought that this book was about shipping children from London to the countryside during World War II. I'm not sure if I'm confusing it with another book, or if I just never really looked at the synopsis. Anyway, I started suspecting I was wrong as soon as I saw the locations listed in the chapters. And once I started reading, it finally dawned on me that I had no idea what I was reading.

The Orphan Train describes the intersecting lives of two young women living in Maine, one born in the early 20th Century and one coming of age in the present day. Molly is seventeen years old and has been bounced from foster home to foster home ever since her father was killed and her mother was incarcerated. Vivian is a 91-year-old widow living in a grand house. Vivien was a first generation Irish immigrant when she was orphaned and lost her family after a fire. Shortly thereafter, Vivian was sent West on a train to be adopted. Both characters have obvious parallels in their lives despite their great, current differences in age and situation.

I really enjoyed reading this book. About five pages in and I was desperately involved in the outcome of Molly's and Vivien's lives. Maybe I'm just a sucker for intelligent, vulnerable, and spunky children, but I always wished for the best for them. I never got bored and there was more than enough suspense built into their situations. The outrage at seeing how some people could treat children also kept me reading.

My only complaint would be that it felt like all the "bad" foster and adoptive homes involved a mean, catty woman, and a nicer but weak-willed husband who couldn't stand up to his wife. This ended up being a little repetitive. There must be a wide array of bad foster homes to choose from if you're really looking. And if you think too hard about the plot, it all seems to fit in together a little too nicely. But it's still definitely worth reading.

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