Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Book - 2012
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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.

Publisher: New York : William Morrow, c2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780061950728
Characteristics: 278, 16 p. ; 21 cm.


From Library Staff

starbuck17 Aug 08, 2015

Predictable. This might be a good read for young teens but I (being an adult) was very disappointed. I couldn't understand why the character of Molly was even inserted into this novel. The effect was an easy read. So easy that it felt like a summer reading book from a sixth grade list.

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Jul 09, 2019

Has parallel plot lines going on, not normally my favorite style, but this one was actually pretty good. Just the right amount of suspense and kept you reading.

Aug 30, 2018

I rather enjoyed reading this book.

The book alternates between Vivian's (when she was a child) and Molly's (teenager) point of view and lives. Vivian's story is especially interesting because there really were orphan trains that transport children across the USA during the early 1900s, and you get to hear some of her experiences with different 'families'. Every place she stayed at, helped shaped who she ultimately became. Despite the harsh circumstances (basically slave labour at this sewing place, mistreatments by the foster parents, attempted sexual assault, etc), Vivian pulled through

Molly is trying hard to make it through. She too has gone through some tough circumstances and situations. She ends up 'volunteering' at Vivian's to help clean out her attic when she was caught stealing an old library book. As Molly and Vivian bond, you can clearly see the two are very similar in a lot of ways...where circumstances have forced them to be tough, build a wall around them to keep themselves safe, are actually very nice hearted people and willing to trust the right people when the time comes.

I wasn't a huge fan of Molly's foster mom, she seems too outrageous and exaggerated, but then again there are all sorts of people out there. Just happy that Molly and Vivian have each other to turn to at times.

Jul 05, 2018

When 17-year-old Molly Ayer is sentenced to 50 hours of community service for stealing a library book, she helps Vivian Daly, a 91-year-old widow, clean out the boxes in her attic. As Molly, a foster child, becomes more involved with the job, she learns that Vivian (nee Niamh and then briefly Dorothy) also has a background as an unwanted child. As she delves more into Vivian's boxes, Vivian's painful early years as an orphan train rider and bad placements are revealed. When a crisis occurs in Molly's current foster home, Vivian provides the key that also unlocks Molly's heart. This exceptional novel runs two periods of history on parallel tracks until they merge at a point where both Molly and Vivian can join together as one. This is the July 2018 selection of the Willa Cather Book Club.

Jul 04, 2018

A real eye opener for anyone not familiar with this period in American history. My heart was full for all these poor boys and girls. A well written novel and a recommended read.

May 24, 2018

Heartwarming and heartbreaking story following two characters from different eras. Loved how the women's lives and souls intertwined. Very well crafted novel about a period in history most of us knew nothing about.

Apr 05, 2018

Just delightful. One of those books that as you read you keep noticing how close you are getting to the end and regret there are not more pages. A wonderful format that switches back and forth between two periods in American history with characters that seem real and that you grow to love and understand, flaws and all. If you liked "A Gentleman in Moscow" you should like this book.

CRRL_MegRaymond Mar 06, 2018

Molly is close to “aging out” of foster care. She gets a job assisting an elderly woman with cleaning out her house, which brings up memories and mysteries.

Feb 26, 2018

A heartbreaking narrative with two threads -- one in the present and one in the distant past. Vivian Daly was an Irish orphan named Niamh who was sent west on an orphan train in 1929. Molly is in the Maine foster system and has been bounced from one home to another growing more cynical with each move. She is caught stealing a library book and her community service assignment is helping Vivian clean out her attic. While they go through Vivian's boxes, her story is told and they realize they have mouch in common.

There was much I loved about this book. The dual narratives fit well together and it was clear that the two characters brought out the best in each other. Of the two stories being told, I definitely preferred Vivian's. What I was disappointed in was Molly's story. It seemed like her foster mother was a hopeless caricature -- too many traits thrown together that did not all seem to fit. There were also some details thrown in like an intimate encounter with Jack that did not seem to move the story forward. I would have also like to see some closure on Molly's story that mirrored what we saw in Vivians's.

Definitely a good book group selection!

Feb 25, 2018

Top notch. Christina Baker Kline is a master storyteller. Each storyline blended and complimented the other. Remarkable, endearing characters. An excellent conclusion. Some unpleasant characters that contributed to the plot development, even though they were despicable. Highly recommend as not only an entertaining read, but an enlightening
introduction to part of history that I was unaware of before this book.

Feb 20, 2018

This was a good read. The main part of the story begins in 1929 in America. A girl moves with her family from Ireland to New York City & then through a fire ends up losing her family & becomes an orphan. From there she ends up on an orphan train that runs out to the farmlands in the Midwest of America. This is part of Americas true history. Some times the stories ended well for the children & sometimes it was tragic.

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Jul 24, 2015

Magicworld thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

May 12, 2015

spolleys thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Jun 11, 2014

maroon_moose_31 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Jun 22, 2013

suzee5454 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Quote
Feb 02, 2019

Favorite quotes from the book:
“I've come to think that's what heaven is- a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.”
“You got to learn to take what people are willing to give.”

Jul 24, 2015

“I feel a joy so strong it’s almost painful—a knife’s edge of joy.”


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