Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train is an unforgettable story of friendship and second chances that highlights a little-known but historically significant movement in America’s past—and it includes a special PS section for book clubs featuring insights, interviews, and more.
Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse…
As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns 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.
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 unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.
I enjoyed the historical portion (Vivian’s point of view) much, much more than Molly’s. I thought Vivian was a much more well-rounded, developed, and likable character. While I understand Molly’s struggles/conflicts, I feel like the author could’ve done more to make her more likable. For me, she just felt cliched and perhaps even a little bit whiney (that is not to say I don’t acknowledge her hardships, I just feel that the author could have written Molly in a way that evokes more sympathy)–the goth look and hard exterior that hides and inner softie due to her tumultuous past just felt a little too old.
There was a hint of cliche to Vivian’s storyline as well–without “spoiling” it (though I’m sure it’s not much of a spoiler anyway since you will probably be able to tell for yourself if you do read this book), I knew who Vivian was going to eventually marry extremely early on in the book. While I’m not a huge fan of cliches there are certainly people who are, and at the end of the day it didn’t really make or break the book.
As I have mentioned, my favorite part of the book was the historical portion; to me it’s extremely well crafted and there really wasn’t a moment where I was bored with the author’s description of what Vivian was going through. Vivian was an easy character to stick with and root for and I was definitely fascinated and enraptured in her story. Molly’s was a bit more disappointing/not as interesting, but thankfully it was only a minor part of the book. In my opinion, the book would have been even better if Molly’s portion had been omitted completely.
Overall, a solid four out of five stars for the book. A good storyline, but could be made better, of course, by omitting a somewhat unnecessary element.
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