STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Sunday, June 14, 2015

From My Bookshelf

I'm behind on my book reviews (like everything else!) so it's time for another...
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, set in coastal Maine in 2011, is the story of two unlikely friends, Vivian, a wealthy ninety-one year old and Molly a seventeen year old foster child. Both have been shuffled from home to home; Molly in over a dozen foster care placements, and Vivian, years ago as a poor Irish immigrant from the streets of New York City on an orphan train to the midwest.
Molly is seventeen and soon to be too old for foster care; after attempting to steal a school library book, she is given fifty hours of community service. Molly is not on the best of terms with her current foster mother and is afraid of being sent back into the "system". Her boyfriend's mother cleans house for a senior (Vivian) and when she suggests that Molly could work off her hours by helping clean out the old lady's attic, Molly reluctantly agrees.
It's not long before Molly becomes enthralled with Vivian's story of her younger years, and begins to see the parallels with her own, realizing they have much in common. Vivian's childhood was heart-wrenching. After immigrating to New York City from Ireland, and losing her entire family in a fire, she is turned over to a children's charity who put her on an orphan train to Minnesota. There she endures abuse, neglect and is overworked, treated basically as slave labour, as she passes through several "homes" (and I use that term very loosely) in her quest for a loving family. I won't give away any more of the story, but suffice it to say this was a compelling read.
I knew nothing of the orphan trains, which existed between 1854-1929. Children were told they were lucky to be on the train, to have a chance at a much better life, a good wholesome life in the fresh country air. Reality was often quite different, as many children were abused and treated as little more than farm labourers/slaves. "Prospective parents" met the train at the station, looking for a child to adopt (older boys were usually the first to be selected.) The child could be taken for a ninety day free trial period, and then "adopted" (more like indentured servitude, I'd say) or returned if found unsuitable.  A short history of the real orphan trains, complete with photographs, follows the acknowledgements at the end. I was surprised to learn that more than 200,000 orphaned, abandoned and homeless children were transported on these trains. A sad and little known piece of history.
Orphan Train is a good solid read, a compelling story that you cannot help but feel emotionally invested in. Both Vivian and Molly are strong well developed characters and the author has done an impressive job of knitting their lives, past and present, together. The ending is heart-warming. Kline has written a fine piece of historical fiction. I'll be looking for more of her writing.

Peace,
Linda

Every book contains a life. The more we read, the more we live.

10 comments:

sunny said...

Love your book reviews! this has been added to my list for the next visit to library.

Anonymous said...

Linda, I loved this book, and it has been selected for my book club for next year. Keep up the book reviews. Have you read "The Girls" by Canadian author Lori Larsens? Excellent! Get it and start reading! Jeanne Kaye

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I just bought this book at a book sale yesterday. So I skimmed over your review. I don't want to know too much before I start it. I see that you liked it and that's enough for me to want to read it. Enjoy your evening my friend. Hugs, Diane

kath001 said...

I read this last year, and I am surprised I don't remember more about it. I gave it 8 out of 10 points, and I bought another book by the author (which I haven't read yet), so I know I liked it.

My Maine Blog said...

Morning Linda ... this is another one that sounds like I would really like. I have just recently begun to read again and like I always used to say ... with a good book on the table it's like having a best friend available anytime day or night. So I'm putting this one next on my list. I love your book reviews ... always helps me to choose the next good read. Have a great week.
Hugs,
Kathy

Vee said...

I have read other books on the orphan trains, some in a more rosy light. Oh my! Some sad stories, and a few good ones, too. After all, Anne of Green Gables was a similar story with a good ending. ;> I can't imagine that those poor orphans would have fared well on the streets of NYC either.

Jennifer said...

I have already read this one, and I agree with your review! Many countries have things hidden in their histories that they don't always want put in the limelight, don't they?

Pamela Gordon said...

This book sounds very good Linda. Is it your personal copy and available to loan out?? ;-) (wink)
Pam

Veralynne Malone said...

Sounds like a good book. I too will check out my library to see if they have it. I have never heard of orphan trains. Interesting.

Lorraine said...

I read this about a year ago - a really great read!

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