Review: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein

Orphan Train was on my to read list for almost two years, and I finally read it as part of my 2015 reading challenge because my mother recommended it. Shortly after I picked it up from the library, my Aunt Nancy also recommended it.

I think I may have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t had such high expectations going into it. When someone recommends a book to me, I expect it to be amazing. This book was sweet and the history was interesting, but it was very contrived. It felt like a slightly more serious beach read. Everything wrapped up so nicely.

I did like the characters, especially Molly. And I always enjoy reading interwoven stories. But the parallels between Molly and Vivian seemed too cutesy. The book was overly descriptive at times, with the middle section reminding me a lot of Little House in the Big Woods with it’s descriptions of rural life.

I knew nothing about the orphan trains before reading this book, and the book did a good job of explaining the history in an enjoyable way. It was a good read, just not great.

Rating: 3 Stars

This review was originally published on Mom’s Radius.

Orphan Train
Christina Baker Klein
William Morrow Paperbacks
April 2, 2013

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

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