By Christina Baker Kline
Complimentary copy from Harper Collins
I remember as a young girl watching the movie, Orphan Train. Many people didn't realize the history of the Orphan Train. There were many orphans roaming the streets of NYC in the mid 1800's. Many orphaned, abandoned, starved, homeless, because they couldn't afford the extra mouth to feed.
The author, Christina Baker Kline, wrote this novel to teach us a bit of unforgotten history. Most of the orphan riders are up in age, and may not be alive to tell their stories very soon. The novel is a interconnected story with history, and flashbacks, (fast forward- flashback in time) with the interconnected story of Vivian, and Molly.
From 1854- 1929 the Orphan Train crossed the United States from, New York to the Mid West on the train from the help of the Children's Aid Society. From the midwest plains(farm land), and desolate, Conditions were hard. Thinks of, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and movies.
The townspeople hoping to adopt these children were just as shady and had something to hide. They had wanted something to gain from these children too. Some of them were looking for a free labor, or a plaything, or something worse. It was a stroke of chance of some of them were adopted into the family for love, and not looking for free labor. Some of the riders were lucky, and some not as lucky.
At first, we don't realize where the story will take us because Vivian's name has been changed several times. She has had a hard life with her parents, and siblings. Eventually, Vivian's name has been changed several times as many times as she has had to leave.
She learns not to trust anyone, and learns she must take care of her self. Nimh, immigrates with her Irish family to America. Where things are rough growing up there. There is a fire in the tenement house, and that is when things get worse for Nimh. She is put on a train west hopefully to find a family, and a place called, "home". The Byrne family wasn't it. They were looking for someone to be a seamstress. But, when the great depression hit, things got worse for her. The Byrne family decided they couldn't keep her any longer. Even if they were hardly fed her.
At the beginning of the Great Depression things get worse, she is taken to a new family. Where you would think things can't get any worse, Wrong!!! They just want her to work, and they starve her, and she must take care of her self. But, then eventually the Children's Aide Society takes her to another family that is even worse than the first.
But luckily, and I do say luckily, she is thrown out of the house. She runs away to the only place she feels safe, her school- where Ms. Larson is her teacher. Eventually, Ms. Larson helps her find a new home where she is treated like family. Where she feels safe, and not scared that something is going to happen.
Then in contemporary Maine, 2011, 17 year old Molly is helping an elderly woman clean her attic. Molly's story parallels to Vivian's story. She has been in foster care, and shifted so many times too. It appears their stories seem similar, and have some of the same difficulties. The story eventually interconnects, and has a bittersweet ending. The book is a character study, but also is historical fiction, and how they interplay with each other is interesting.
The ending seemed like it was rushed. It was Vivian learning how to use the computer and to do research on the internet. How in the blazes??? She showed no interest in the computer or internet. Then all of a sudden she goes out and buys one. Where did that come from?? left field?? I can understand it if it was mentioned in the book a bit more. But, there wasn't any mention in the novel until the end. The ending was a bit contrived on this part. This is my only criticm.
The ending did make me cry, happy tears. I was expecting more. The novel was not a literary great. I am wondering why it was given an award. Actually I think the book is good if everyone in the book club is looking for a light read. If you are, this is it.
I am glad our book club decided to read this book. It has been on my tbr shelf for a couple years. I can't wait to see what everyone else felt about this book. There are many themes that can be discussed, lonliness, family, immigration, adoption, orpanages, etc. We will be having our end of the year, Chanakah party tomorrow. I will fill you in what everyone else felt.
I have been hearing how wonderful this story is for the past two years. It is a good book club book, and lots to discuss. But, it didn't WOW, me. But it is a good story and kept me entertained for hours.
Let me know what your book club thought, and your thoughts. Thank you Harper Collins for giving me a reveiw copy and posting my thoughts.