Book Review – Orphan Train

Book Review – Orphan Train

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When Molly, finds herself in trouble for stealing, she is lucky to get the chance to work off her time by cleaning an attic for an elderly lady. She wasn’t happy with the consequence, but ends up finding some common ground with the Vivian. Molly quickly find that she made assumptions about Vivian. Just because Vivian appears to be privileged doesn’t mean she had an easy road behind her.

Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline, follows two stories one in the present and once in the past. Of the two, the elderly lady Vivian’s story was the most interesting. Of course, I had to look up the orphan trains for myself and learn more about them and the history.

Group being sent on the Orphan trains to the south and west

What I learned from an article by the social welfare history project, is that the orphan trains were run by the Children’s aid Society, transported children off the streets of major cities and took them west where they were taken in by mostly farmers. The children were being victimized, and arrested and the hope was this solution was beneficial for both parties and kept the kids out of orphanages. In the beginning the conditions were not great and the children were not told what was happening to them.

One of the things that links Molly and Vivian, is that the orphan trains were considered the beginning of the foster care system. It was stopped when the government started to realize the benefit of keeping families together.


Mr. Reed tells students they have to interview someone – a mother of father or grandparent – about their own portages, the moments in their lives when they’ve had to take a journey, literal or metaphorical.

Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline

In the story Molly is in the foster care system, and having trouble with her placement, she decides to interview Vivian for a school project. She becomes almost obsessed with Vivian’s story. Since she entered foster care, she had been feeling very alone and misunderstood. Hearing the story of someone who made it through a situation even worse gave her hope.

The story of Vivian’s life takes us from a young hopeful immigrant, to a lost child, and ends as a confident, yet perhaps lonely, elderly lady. It’s a story of perseverance and hope. She consistently shows the ability to live in any situation, no matter how dire, and learn to survive. If you like rag to riches stories, then this is a great book to read.

4 out of 5 stars

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