Monday, April 29, 2013
Author: Christina Baker Kline
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (April 2, 2013)
Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?
As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.
Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.
Oh, Vivien's story is heart-wrenching. Her entire young life is a series of heartache, fright, hunger, lack of love and uncertainty. When her entire family dies in a house fire on the East Coast, she is put on an Orphan Train to the Midwest. The people who take these children aren't required to adopt them. They are required to send them to school, but no one really checks. It was so sad to read how these children were generally taken in as cheap labor and little else. Vivien was literally given back several times.
Meanwhile, Molly - in our modern times, is a victim of our foster care system - another place to be lost and lonely in. People take in children for government money and have little affection for them. Molly simply hopes to find a home and security before she turns 18 and is left out in the cold.
Watching these two grow together and learning their stories was intense and unbelievably emotional to me.
Fantastic book with an important, yet almost forgotten, piece of history thrown in.