I know I’m a little late to the party on this one but the Orphan Train is a great book. It is by Christina Baker Kline, who, prior to this book, had never had more than 10,000 copies of any of her books printed. She then produces this novel, which becomes a NY Times bestseller thanks to positive word of mouth reviews and Book Clubs. The Orphan Train is the story of Vivian, an Irish Immigrant who comes to New York City in the 1920s with her family and is orphaned. During the twenties, many orphans were shipped on “Orphan Trains” from the big cities of the East to the Midwest where they were given to families who primarily used them for free labor although that wasn’t really the purpose of the program
The story moves between Vivian in her nineties living in Maine and flashbacks to her experiences as a child growing up including a trip on the Orphan Train and several horrific foster homes. Vivian’s story is wonderfully told through her eyes and those of a young Goth teenager (Molly) who becomes involved in her life. I am pretty well versed in American history but had never heard of Orphan Trains, as I’m sure most of you haven’t either. This novel provides a fascinating look into that period of time. The author has clearly done her research resulting in a very realistic description of what life for these orphans may have been like.
While I find the popular writing technique of flashbacks getting to be tiresome (can’t anyone write a good novel these days without them?), it does work effectively in this book so I won’t complain about it too much. The book wraps up in a neat little bow and a bit of a cheesy ending but you won’t be disappointed that you read it.