Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Published April 2, 2013 by Audible Audio
Narrated by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren
Dates listened: March 26 - April 5, 2017

Kline’s Orphan Train is 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,” as Goodreads describes.

Molly Ayer, a Penobscot Indian, feels like an outsider being raised by complete strangers as she has been in and out of foster care homes – her father died in a car crash and her mother is a drug addict in jail. She is just a few months of aging out of the foster care system and quite close to being kicked out of her current foster home. Just when she’s about to go to juvie for a seemingly minor offense, she opts to do a community service position helping an elderly woman - her only alternative to avoiding jail. Like any 17 year old, she thinks she couldn’t possibly have anything in common with a 91-year old. Little does she know that the service hours are only the beginning of the stories and lessons she’ll learn from Vivian and the keepsakes hidden away in trunks in the attic. 

Vivian, an Irish immigrant arrived in New York City through Ellis Island and is orphaned at a young age just months before the Great Depression. Soon after her parents and siblings die in a fire, she is put on an “orphan train” to the Midwest with hundreds of other children. All because she had the misfortune of being orphaned, she seems to be seen as less than a person and more as free labor or free childcare rather than as a 9-year old child in need of a loving family and education. 

Kline does a wonderful job of weaving together the women’s similar stories and struggles, seamlessly switching back and forth between Molly’s story and their budding friendship in 2011 and Vivian’s journey as an orphan during one of the most difficult times in our country's history.

As they spend more time together, the more Molly realizes their similarities and more importantly that they both have unanswered questions about their pasts. She soon discovers 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.

Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, stories of friendship, and especially those willing to open their eyes to the struggles of children who have found themselves at the mercy of adults taking advantage of their situation.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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