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.
To put it simply: I adored this book. As soon as I read the synopsis I knew I would learn about a forgotten chapter in history. What I didn’t know was that I would fall for the tale and the characters.
Baker-Kline has crafted a wonderful novel involving not only the orphan trains of the late 1800s but also the foster care system of today. Orphan Train is a commentary on what happens to children without parents (or parents that are unable to care for their children) and a deeply moving story.
The book moves seamlessly from Vivian’s early life to Molly’s current situation. Baker-Kline has done a faultless job of blending historical and modern elements. In my opinion that rarely happens in a book encompassing both historical and modern elements.
Orphan Train is an emotional and beautiful story that I highly recommend.