The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

Orphan Train



Mostly recently I read Orphan Train (B+) by Christina Baker Kline a very compelling story about one particular orphan, Niamh Power (Vivian Daly).

Alternating between narrators, Vivian and Molly tell their stories. We learn of Niamh’s journey from Ireland to New York where she was orphaned and placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society.  We meet Molly who presently is in foster care because she too is orphaned.

Niamh was one of the orphans that were placed on a train from New York headed West.  This train referred to as the “Orphan Train” really existed in the 1920s. It was hoped that the children taken from orphanages would be placed with families that both needed and wanted a child.  Unfortunately, not all the adoptions worked out. Many of the children were placed in abusive and unfit situations.

Molly, too, has been shuffled through the system and has lived in many bad foster homes.  She meets Mrs. Daly when she is sentenced to 50 community service hours in order to stay out of juvie because she has stolen a library book.

While working with Vivian to clear and organize her attic full of treasures, she becomes involved in Vivian’s story.  Through the fifty hours the two women become friends each helping the other to find what they so desperately need.

I enjoyed the historical value of the story as much as the story itself.  I find it remarkable that children survived devastating lives.  Their stories come to our attention through well-written novels such as Orphan Train and honor and recognize their struggles.  Mark this one “to read” and you can take the journey too.


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