Orphan Train Review

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Cline

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary: “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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).

I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if my mom didn’t suggest I read it. I was hesitant because I didn’t think it sounded all that interesting, but I was pleasantly surprised. This book unveils one of the least discussed portions of American history and the brutalities of life for orphans affected by this time. The abuse and sadness in Vivian’s life as a child disturbed me, but was truly eye-opening.

I found Molly’s part of the story just as interesting, but I did, unfortunately, find it written in a somewhat patronizing way. When I read young adult books, their depiction of teenagers seems so much more raw and realistic, but in the adult genre, it comes across like a criticism of teenagers. I felt this way about Molly’s chapters, especially in her description of being “goth”. I really did like her character, but I think I would have liked her more if I got to see better into her emotions. I also wish I could have seen more into her relationship with her boyfriend because he seemed really controlling. Their relationship came across really negative to me. He constantly put her down and wanted her to lie to protect his mom. It just didn’t seem right to me.

I never once found this book slow, unlike how I expected, and read the majority of it on New Year’s Eve to meet my challenge goal. If you’re looking for an influential novel about United States history (but not in the conventional way), I highly recommend it. I didn’t cry, but it really was painful at a lot of points. I also have been known not to cry very often, so… My point, though, is that I truly felt for the characters, and I think that’s one of the most important parts of a book–having your emotions affected. If a book doesn’t affect you, it isn’t worth recommending.

-Book Hugger

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