Orphan Train: Book Review
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.
Some of them were expecting 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 had a hard life with her parents, and siblings.
She learns not to trust anyone, and learns she must take care of herself. 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.
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 herself. 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. Nimh has had name changes so many times in her young life. Finally, Vivian sticks.
The story interconnects with Vivian, now 91 years old, and Molly, a 17 year old, troubled Penobscot Indian that is placed in foster care. Molly is caught stealing from the library, Jane Eyre. She has to do community service. Her community service is to help Vivian clean out the boxes out of her attic. As Vivian, and Molly begin the task of cleaning the attic, they both realize they both have a connection and can help one another.
My Review: Historical fiction is my cup of tea. I enjoyed the story. But, the characters were not deep. The story was superficial. I still enjoyed reading, but it was not the greatest for me. Everyone in our book club enjoyed it, except for me and one other person. If you are looking for a light read for your book club, this would be it.
The ending seemed like it was rushed. It was Vivian learning how to use the computer and to doing research on the internet. 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.