27 December 2016

Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Book Format: Paperback
# of Pages: 278
Synopsis: The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: 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 Review:
Kristina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train focuses on an interesting way of putting children who have found themselves parent less into new homes. The children are loaded onto trains and are brought to a few different cities where they are lined up in front of a room full of people waiting to pick out children to take home. One of the main characters grew up bouncing from home to home after being picked from an orphan train. The main characters directly mirror each other in that both girls know what it is like to bounce from home to home without finding the right match, until later on in life. 

The novel intertwines two very different yet shockingly similar worlds. Readers follow two young girls during the most difficult times of their lives. The novel starts off with Molly who has found herself with a pair of foster parents who are not so sure how her being in their home is going to work out. Molly gets herself in trouble, and is in need of community service hours. Eventually Molly’s boyfriend gets involved and with the help of his mother she is introduced to 91 year old Vivian, with the task of cleaning out her attic. While sorting through the many boxes around Vivian dives into the story of her childhood, which happens to be similar to what Molly is going through currently. 

Both characters were abandoned at a very young age. Vivian at an old age, had already gone through much of her life as an orphan, and at this point in the novel she has developed enough to where she can take another under her wing and give knowledge from her past as an orphan and this is exactly what she does with Molly. Vivian uses stories from her past to pull Molly out of the funk of depression and getting into trouble at her home life. At this point in her life, Molly still has not found the right set of parents to be with and during their time together Vivian helps her to figure that out. This part of the novel also directly mirrors both of their lives, Vivian runs away from a house where, “Mrs. Grote lies in bed all day,” and room in which she awoke with, “snow dust on her face, and stained mattresses.” and eventually Molly does something entirely similar. The novel tells a fascinating story about two women who come together to help each other without even knowing they are doing so.

The novel is perfectly fitting for those looking to dive into the past yet come up for air every bunch of chapters with a point of view from Molly’s side of the story. I enjoyed following these two ladies through their difficulties of being orphans, I found myself feeling the emotions they felt and showed at all times. I also felt Kline did a wonderful job at mirroring these two characters to put together an amazing story.

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