The #1 New York Times Bestseller
Now featuring a sneak peek at Christina's forthcoming novel The Exiles, coming August 2020.
“A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of America’s history. Beautiful.”—Ann Packer
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 woman clean out her home 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 novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, and unexpected friendship.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Between 1854 and 1929, hundreds of thousands of orphaned children were herded into rail cars and paraded in front of potential foster parents in remote parts of the country. Novelist Christina Baker Kline follows Molly, a present-day goth teen who’s been shuttled from home to home since she was removed from her drug-addicted single mother’s care. After a run-in with the law, Molly finds herself doing community service with a 90-year-old woman named Vivian. As the two clean up Vivian’s cluttered attic, they unbox the past and discover surprising parallels between their lives. Orphan Train unearths a lesser-known chapter of American history and makes it feel strikingly relevant. With its focus on the healing bond between two very different women with shared experiences, Kline’s story took us on a heart-wrenching—and heartwarming—journey.
Kline's absorbing new novel (after Bird in the Hand) is a heartfelt page-turner about two women finding a sense of home. Seventeen-year-old Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer has spent most of her life in foster care. When she's caught stealing a copy of Jane Eyre from the library, in an effort to keep the peace with her stressed foster parents, she ends up cleaning out elderly Vivian Daly's attic. Molly learns that Vivian was herself an orphan, an Irish immigrant in New York who was put on the Orphan Train in the late 1920s and tossed from home to home in Minnesota. The growing connection leads Molly to dig deeper into Vivian's life, which allows Molly to discover her own potential and helps Vivian rediscover someone she believed had been lost to her forever. Chapters alternate between Vivian's struggle to find a safe home, both physically and emotionally, in early 20th-century Minnesota, and Molly's similar struggle in modern-day Maine. Kline lets us live the characters' experiences vividly through their skin, and even the use of present tense, which could distract, feels suited to this tale. The growth from instinct to conscious understanding to partnership between the two is the foundation for a moving tale.
Okay, well I really, really liked this book but it ended so abruptly I keep thinking that I did not for some reason get the entire download of the book. Maybe someone can confirm that the story ends with Vivian asking Molly about possibly searching for her sister… I still think I did not get end of book!
My husband's aunt was one of those children put on an orphan train to Kansas around 1918 when she and her younger brother were the only ones left in their immigrant family after the 1918 influenza epidemic hit New York City. She was adopted by a farm family in Kansas, she and her brother were separated and never reunited and even though she married, had three children and had a good life, she felt like there was a missing piece in her life. This novel had so many parallels that I wish she was still alive so that I could share it with her. I will share it with her sons.