For The Someday Book

Book Review: Orphan Train

Posted on: September 14, 2015

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, William Morrow of HarperCollins, 2013, 278 pp.

Orphan TrainAfter pushing through the last seven books on Jesus, orthodoxy and theology for work, I was in desperate need of a good novel. I discovered I was more desperate than I realized–or at least this novel was better than I anticipated. I sat down to read it at 9:00 p.m. on a Monday night, and never closed it until it was finished.

Orphan Train is the fictionalized account of a young girl, Molly, at the end of her journey through the foster care system after having lost her parents, and Vivian Daly, an orphan with an heartbreaking tale of her own. Vivian Daly was a child of the “orphan trains,” which ran from major East Coast cities into the Midwest, sending children out to be adopted by families across the country. The novel unfolds the story of Vivian’s extraordinary journey, which began in Ireland, continued through Ellis Island into a New York tenement, collapsed with the loss of her family in a fire, and then sent her on a train to unknown places in the Midwest. Even once she reached her destination, she still moved through several homes. Vivian’s childhood was brutal and unkind, as she was treated more as hired help than as anyone’s child, but her story is one of hope and triumph.

Parallel to Vivian’s story, the author gives us the redemption of Molly Ayer, whose own betrayal by the foster system has brought her close to juvenile hall. Befriending Vivian Daly is part of her community service, but they discover a connection to the harsh reality of growing up with no one who loves you or calls you “family.” Together, they trace their stories, find kinship, and help one another move into a surprising and beautiful future.

I read this too fast to set aside beautiful passages, but it’s the story that makes this most compelling. The characters are engaging and the history and plot are absolutely fascinating. It’s a joy to read.

2 Responses to "Book Review: Orphan Train"

I loved this book. Made me think of my Mom’s situation. So glad she has come to terms with her life and reunited with her family and with God.

[…] recent reads What She Left Behind, Orphan Train and Orphan #8, this novel begins in the author’s discovery of a little-known aspect of […]

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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