Review: Orphan Train

Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline
HarperCollins Publishers, 2013

Description (from book jacket):

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck.  Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away.  Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur.  But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall.  But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they appear.  A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chance, and unexpected friendship.

My Review – 4 Stars

In Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline, ninety-one year old Vivian Daly, who was on an orphan train when she was seven years old, recounts her past.

This is a fictional account of the trials a child from the orphan train might have faced.   Some orphans were given to loving homes and others, like Vivian, were placed in homes promising years of servitude and lack of parental love.  This novel highlights the feelings toward others an orphan might develop.  Seventeen year old, Molly, a modern day orphan, and Vivian can relate with one another.  Vivian’s past is not all bad, but ghosts from her past continue to haunt her.  Molly helps Vivian reconnect with her past in positive ways.

Orphan Train  causes one to contemplate the good things in life and consider how past experiences shape our current attitudes.  I enjoyed this novel and the photographs at the end of the book of orphans from that time period.


  1. So glad you enjoyed this book. Think I’ve mentioned that it’s waiting on my kindle… hopefully I can read it soon.


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