book review: the orphan train

the orphan train, written by christina baker kline, is a story about 91 year old vivian daly and her childhood as an immigrant to america by way of galway county ireland. vivian enlists the help of molly, a 17 year old foster kid who needs to fulfill community service hours, to help her clean out the attic of her mansion. in doing so, molly discovers that it’s really a way for vivian to go through old memories of her past, which molly soon learns isn’t much different than her own.

vivian arrived to new york city along with her parents and siblings, looking for a new life and new opportunities as many immigrants do. her father battled alcoholism, while her mother battled poverty and the care of four small children. after an accident claims the lives of her family, vivian (then called niamh) is put into the foster care system in nyc when eventually takes 9 year old niamh on the beginning of her adventure via the orphan trains of new york. the orphan trains are a real thing – where they funneled abandoned children from the big city out to the midwest to be given a home and be taken care of. most often then not, though, these children became workers for underprivileged families that needed help on their minnesotan farms, or taking care of additional children – and were more impoverished than the lives these children actually came from.

vivian has some pretty terrible things happen to her throughout her childhood and is bounced around to a few families and takes on quite a few new names that her foster parents assign her at each stop. the reader follows along on her journey, eventually landing on her present state memory lane trip with molly. overall, this book was a good read and i think the author did a great job with vivian’s character development. however, i think since molly had a similar background and starts out as a primary character that a little more time could have been spent on her background. she seems to have been thrown into the mix to give someone for vivian to bond with towards the end of her life. also – the book ends pretty quickly, and i’m not sure if the author has left room for there to be a sequel introduced, but there seems to be another great adventure on vivian’s horizon that the reader just barely catches a glimpse of before the book ends.

overall, it was a good read and i’d recommend it to anyone looking for a lazy sunday type of book. the material can be a little heavy, but isn’t too bad, and with just over 275 pages, you can breeze through it quick enough, as well.


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