Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: April 2013
Categories: Literary, Historical Fiction
Source: William Morrow/She Reads


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.

My Thoughts:

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.

48 thoughts on “Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

  1. I'm fascinated by the orphan train thing! I hadn't heard much about it until recently- it was in the backstory for one of the characters in Swamplandia! This sounds good!


  2. I agree – it's so hard to equally write modern and historical storylines. I've read about the orphan trains before. It's such a fascinating (and sad) part of history.


  3. There was a mention of the orphan trains in a recent book I read. (After Visiting Friends…I think?) I knew that Orphan Train was coming up on my tbr pile and I got that little zing of YAY! I love when that happens. I can almost guarantee that I'll see references to orphan trains here and there now. 😉 I'm kind of babbling here but I think you'll know what I'm trying to say!


  4. Usually I'm racing to get back to the historical parts of the book. I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't happen to me this time! I'd like to find a good nonfiction work about the orphan trains. I'm fascinated by it now.


  5. Oh I will read this one! Anything that opens a piece of history through fiction is bound to be useful, if not a wonderful story. All of the history I know well has come from historical fiction.


  6. Sounds great!! I want this book!! I love it when I finish a book and the characters stay with me for a few days longer. Is this what's happening with you and this book? (sounds like it)


  7. The Chaperone also features orphan trains. I will try to get to this at some point. I think Jen and I were considering it for BOOK CLUB, but then went for a summer mystery series since we usually go a bit lighter in the summer.


  8. Glad you liked this one so much! It's on my Nook and ready to roll for my next book club meeting. I read a couple of pages last night and it's already engaging!


  9. I adored this book as well. I listened to it and it was a wonderful audio production. I had heard of orphan trains but to hear a story like this really makes you think of how hard life was for these helpless kids. It broke my heart.


  10. I would really like to know even more about the orphan trains. I'm hoping to bump into a nonfiction account at some point. It is heartbreaking isn't it? 😦 Thanks so much for visiting Darlene!


  11. I'd never heard of the orphan trains before (although someone above said they're mentioned in Swamplandia, so I must have just forgotten?), and they seem like such a sad part of our history. This sounds like a really lovely, moving book!


  12. Great review! I loved this book- I had never heard of the orphan trains before either-and I majored in history (blush). Such a well written book.Kerri @ Turn the Page Reviews


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