Author Christina Baker Kline's inspiration for The Orphan Train came about after finding out that both her grandparents were train orphans. Between 1854 and 1920 so-called orphan trains transported more than two hinder thousand orphaned, abandoned and homeless children from the coastal cities of the East coast to the Midwest for "adoption". Unfortunately many of these children were taken into homes for the sole purpose of indentured servitude. Instead of loving and schooling the children they were thought of as extra hands for farm work and put to work.
Before reading the book orphan train I had no idea about this movement of children in the U.S. Sadly siblings were often split apart and children had no say in their lives.
orphan train is an amazing story about two orphans. Molly finds herself in need of completing community service to avoid a stint in juvenile hall after stealing a copy of Jane Eyre from the school library. Bounced from foster home to foster home Molly has no faith in the system and is reluctant to trust anyone. Desperate to complete her hours Molly's boyfriend introduces her to Vivian, an elderly woman who needs her attic cleaned out.
orphan train switches between Molly and Vivian's story. Vivian's story is truly amazing as the reader is introduced to the tale of orphan train. The child of Irish immigrant parent's, Vivian loses her family in a house fire. From NY she is placed on a train to Minnesota. Christened Niamh (pronounced Neeve) she finds herself with a new name in her first home. Much to Niamh's surprise she is taken in for the sole purpose of working in the family sewing business. The life that she is made to bear is unsuitable for a child of 9. At her next home she is given the opportunity to attend school and befriends her teacher who is sympathetic to her pupils.
As Molly helps Vivian clean out her attic, both Vivian and Molly find that while 60 years in age separate them they have much in common. Author Baker Kline weaved together a story spanning almost 70 years. Readers will be drawn both to Vivian and Molly's stories and lives as the two women forge a friendship and learn from each other.
Thank you to William Morrow for providing me a with copy of the book to read.