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How can we be so mean to defenceless children??

Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

I particularly enjoy books that teach me about something that I didn't even realise I didn't know, and this was one of those.

Between 1854 and 1929, thousands of orphaned children were transported from the east to the west coasts of America by trains, dubbed The Orphan Trains. These children were adopted by families looking for boys to work on the land, girls to help in the house, and occasionally, a child to love and nurture. Those that were not adopted at the first stop would be herded back onto the train to try again at a station further down the line. It was a tragic lottery as to how their fate would pan out.


In this novel, elderly Vivian gradually unveils her past to Molly, a fostered teenager who is required to do community service to keep her from 'juvie', following the theft of a library book. Molly spends her required fifty hours sorting through the piles of accumulated possessions in Vivian's loft. It turns out that their histories have certain similarities as both felt unloved and unwanted as children. Vivian had been the daughter of Irish immigrants who had died in a fire, and she had been one of the orphans shipped across the country in 1929.


Although I really enjoyed this book, it was a bit clichéd in parts and I particularly disliked the foster mother who was supposed to be caring for Molly. The ending also felt a bit rushed. However, the rest of the book grabbed me enough for these failings to become less significant and I'd highly recommend this book.