Orphan Train
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
read excerpt

Orphan Train

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  63,172 ratings  ·  9,260 reviews
The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to...more
Paperback, 294 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Help by Kathryn StockettThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsGone Girl by Gillian FlynnThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk KiddHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Best Beach Reads 2013
9th out of 2,317 books — 4,205 voters
The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Help by Kathryn StockettCatching Fire by Suzanne CollinsTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Smart Summer Reads
61st out of 1,368 books — 2,627 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Update 2: Activity Goodreads does not permit me to mention, but does permit to happen, occurs in comment #51 [formerly comment 52] to this review. Check it out!

Highlight: Kline thinks pointing out bad writing is "silly," which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the quality of this book. That's it, I'm one-starring this baby.

**Update: Disclaimer!**

This is my review space, in which I discuss bad writing in recent releases, including but not limited to this one. If you are offended b...more
As a Midwesterner, I was really interested in this book after hearing it featured on NPR. However, it was ruined by a small, and to some, insignificant character and narrative. The main narrative about Vivian, an Orphan Train rider, was excellent. The second narrative of Molly, a teen foster child, is marred by the way the author, Christina Baker Kline, portrays her oppressive foster mom.

"...Dina listens to conservative talk radio, belongs to a fundamentalist Christian church, and has a "Guns d...more
Diane Yannick
I find the orphan trains to be an interesting/horrifying time in our history. I thought this book would give me a deeper understanding of what it was like to be a child enslaved by this flawed government plan. Instead, I found this to be a fluffy, shallow story chock full of huge stereotypes. Let's see, we have the sexually perverted foster dad, the Goth girl, the upstanding drafted man, the 91 year old lady who hoarded her life in the attic. Each character was painted with broad strokes that cr...more
Bette BookAddict
Jun 21, 2014 Bette BookAddict rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Bette BookAddict by: GR
Shelves: gcac-2014-read

The real truth behind this wonderful story is actually quite awful in magnitude. Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,00 homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent to the Midwest: ostensibly for adoption but often more became indentured servitude, to people who wanted a worker rather than a child. It is a little known fact of America's history and one I knew nothing about. I love it when an author sends me hurrying to Google in order to learn more about certain facts I've learned from t...more
Before I became a foster/adoptive parent, I would have ranked this book much higher. But it rankled that yet another novel characterizes a foster mom as racist, shrill, emotionally abusive, and selfish. Oh, and the foster parents are just in it for the money.

And of course Molly is just misunderstood, with no serious behavioral problems or alienating qualities. Except for a nose ring (gasp!), and a tendency to steal high-brow literature (oh my!).

And of course, everyone ends up happy and joyful o...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
3.5 stars. "Orphan Train" is a book set in both the present day and the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Vivian traveled from NYC to Minnesota as a young girl on one of the infamous "orphan trains" that was used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life. I've read a couple fictional accounts of what these orphan trains were like and it always amazes me that there was something like that in this co...more
Marla Mutch
When I was 16 my Great Aunt Pauline told me the saddest true story. I asked her about her background, she was of Polish decent in a completely German town in Washington State. She told me that when her family came over from Poland her mother had pink eye, and was sent back to Poland to try again. She was pregnant and when she got back, she had a child that was not listed on the papers. She put the baby in a suitcase to keep the officials at Ellis Island from finding her and separating her again....more
I'm going to be the odd man out here because I just had too many issues with this book to rate it more than a two. I read it because of the history, and that was incredibly interesting. I wish there had been even more about the orphan trains themselves. I spent quite a bit of time looking up the orphan train welfare policy.

This story itself was too predictable for me. I wasn't invested in Molly's character, and I didn't like the development of most of the side characters. I cared about Vivian, w...more
Hanna Gichard
From what I can tell, this book is not classified primarily as a young adult novel. It definitely should be. The writing style is very simplistic and elementary, which is fine for a YA book. I was just expecting something a little more adult in terms of the writing style.

That said, I think the subject of the book is very interesting. I found Vivian/Niamh's story fascinating, and I learned a lot about something in our country's history I knew nothing about. The ending was a little too neat and co...more
I was going to say this book reads like a YA novel, but then I realized that is an insult to some really well-written YA novels (The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird, Flowers for Algernon...)

Like many other readers, I thought the book had potential with a very interesting subject (orphan trains), but the writing was amateurish, with incredibly stereotypical characters, a predictable plot and way too much sentimentality. I doubted throughout the book that the author had any firsthand experience with...more
I received this book for my birthday and it was not one that I had heard about. I jumped in and looked at the description and looked forward to reading it. I do enjoy historical fiction where the writer has done a lot of research and you learn about a period in history.

Life was tough in New York City and the east coast. In information at the back of the book, it said that their might be ten thousand orphans living on the streets of New York during this time period. I would think that the orphan...more
With some tweaking and editing, this might be a good young adult book as that's how it reads. I certainly didn't find it an adult book. I was disappointed that more history and information about orphan trains wasn't included. The author did appear to do her research, so I'm not sure why she chose not to include more of it.

The book was painfully predictable. I knew pages beforehand what Groate was going to do. At the first hint of hint of World War II, I knew what would happen to Luke. Dina was l...more
Diane S.
I had known about the Orphan trains and had even read a few previous books on that subject. What I did not know was that these orphan trains actually ran for over seventy years, from 1854 until 1929 and that some two hundred thousand children were put on these trains. Of course not all of them found a loving family, many were treated like indentured servants, and many were abused. In present day, Molly who is 17, a foster child, is given community service for attempting to steal a book from the...more
This is a story involving a real period in history when children, who were orphaned or just given away, had been put on train from one state to another state of the U.S.A. into the care of a new family.
The children in this story were intrusted to families in many cases to help with household chores or cheap labor and the family was supposedly to give in return food, shelter and schooling. The sad fates on the children in this tale make hard reading and the negligence of those that handed them ov...more
This is another one of those "this book could have been so much better" books. I enjoyed learning about the orphan train and the experiences of those who were forced to ride them. I also enjoyed the relationship between 17-yr-old Molly and 91-yr-old Vivian, both of whom were orphans. So far, so good. But nearly all the foster families were exactly the same: strong-willed wives who didn't want to foster children married to milquetoast husbands who (for some reason) did. Whether in the 20's or pre...more
Orphan Train is an unfortunate train wreck of generic, formulaic, historical fiction plotting and all the subtlety and nuance of a Mack truck. It's got a great premise - the orphan trains were a real part of American history. Orphaned children were loaded up on trains by well-intentioned Children's Aid workers and marched off at various stops in the midwest and west where families would look them over and decide whether to keep them as foster children or eventually adopt them. It's not too much...more
Carolyn Lind
Weaving together the stories of two abandoned children, one from the past and one from the present, this book explores the depths of emotion children experience and the devastating consequences of abandonment. No platitudes proclaiming the resilience of children; reality rips into the heart of the reader with searing honesty. There is no "story-book ending"; even Vivian's adoption by a kind couple cannot heal the past. "I never lose the fear that any day Mr. Sorenson could be on the doorstep, te...more
Jun 23, 2013 Dem rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dem by: Diane S.
Shelves: recommended-by
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is an interesting read and touches on a subject that I really wanted to learn more about.

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 labour and servitude?

Vivian Daly an Irish immigrant...more
It's a pitiful kind of childhood, to know that no one loves you or is taking care of you, to always be on the outside looking in.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick and easy read, but the subject matter is incredibly sad. Approximately 100,000 kids were transported from the East coast to the Midwest between 1854 and 1929. Anyone could then go to the train stations and select a child. (They had a 90 day trial period, and could then send them back if not happy.) Some kids were lucky and fou...more
Orphan Train is a beautifully written story.

This is a story about 91 year old Vivian who as a child was orphaned and placed on the "Orphan Train".
Vivian tells her story of being adopted and how she is mistreated throughout her childhood.

Then there is Molly who is 17 and has lived in many foster homes.
Molly must do 50 hours of community service and this is where she crosses paths with 91 year old Vivian.

Vivian lives in a mansion where she has an attic that needs cleaning out.The attic is filled b...more
Apr 29, 2014 Brenda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Brenda by: Sharon Hill
In 1927 young Niamh Power, her Mam, Da and siblings had left County Galway in Ireland (and her beloved Gram) for the shores of America, assured of a better life for the family. The foggy arrival in New York harbour meant the Statue of Liberty was only a ghostly image in the distance, but she was sure their lives would not be as hard as they had been back home in Ireland. But within two years disaster had struck the little family, and Niamh was suddenly alone and friendless in a big city where sh...more
Lisa Vegan
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though I don’t think it was perfect. I found it riveting from beginning to end. The writing is lyrical, the storytelling skillful, the characters compelling.

I liked the historical sections the most, but I fully warmed up to the contemporary sections and thought how they were connected was brilliantly done.

This is a wonderful story that shows the power of good and caring teachers, the positive influence of mentoring, and the healing that can occur when talking...more
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
Two women from different eras but with similar life stories. How will that friendship progress?

You will be mesmerized by this book that is based on a true part of American history. ORPHAN TRAIN has magnificent detail and a wonderful storyline. I was pulled in within five pages. The two alternating time periods telling about the lives of Vivian and Molly is beautifully told. They are two appealing and well-developed characters that you want to know more about and won't be disappointed in what yo...more
Priscille Sibley
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Sometimes, it only takes a single page to make me fall in love with a character’s voice. Inside it, there is a mystery, or a reticence, or something which says there is a whole life about to unravel and reveal a secret worth savoring. This is the case with Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

Orphan Train tells the story of two young girls, both displaced, both orphaned, both for all practical purposes abandoned to society. One is seventeen-year-old Molly A...more
The Orphan Train is a gripping story which cleverly weaves a relatively unknown part of American history and the contemporary. Borrowing the voices from different generations, the author has created a an endearing tale of resilience, hope, second chances and intergenerational bond forged over shared experiences. It's a little gem that I'd recommend to everyone.

To keep herself out of juvie, troubled teen Molly Ayer agrees to do 50 hours of community service helping out an elderly widow to clean...more
Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~*
In a last -ditch attempt to avoid going to a juvie home,17 year old Molly Ayer agrees to clean out the attic of 91-year old Vivian Daly in exchange for community service hours. Surprised by Vivian's strong spirit and intrigued by the history hidden within the attic,Molly delves deeper into her task with cautious curiosity. The further Molly gets into her hours spent there,the more of Vivian's story is uncovered,and the striking similarities of their lives starts to take hold. Though separated by...more
Heartwarming and Harrowing

“Orphan Train” alternates between Molly’s current day story and Vivian’s tale which begins in the 1920’s. Kline interweaves their adventures back and forth in time. Both of them have lost their families in tragic situations. Both are orphans who struggle to find a place in the world. Eventually they meet and help one another heal despite the 70 plus age gap.

I was afraid this book would have some harrowing incidents and it does but Kline backs away from the full horror o...more
Robert Sutton
I am quite new at reviewing the books I read, but will try more because I understand how important they are to authors.

I loved this book and plan on reading it again.

The point of view was kinda confusing at first. However as a read it more and more I began to understand what the author was trying to say, by the way the characters interacted and brought the story to life.
Many times while reading I felt like I was right there in 1929 on the train or in the houses that Viv found herself. I did not...more
In this very moving narrative, we have 91 year old Vivian and 17 year old foster child Molly in present day Maine, who, because of circumstances and then discovered commonalities, forge a much needed friendship. Through seamlessly woven chapters of past and present, we learn that Vivian was on one of the trains that carried orphans circa 1929 from NYC to the Midwest, to find new families and new lives. At the age of 9 she and others like her went from one awful foster situation to the next, real...more

As I finished The Orphan Train I was wiping tears from my eyes and marveling at the ending of this beautifully written and moving story. I've read a few books about the orphan trains, but none touched me quite like this one. The author was able to transition seamlessly between Vivian and Molly's stories and blended them together to create a tale that was not only totally believable, but also gut-wrenching. The historical aspect alone is worthy of reading, but when you add Vivian and Molly's trau...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Whistling Past the Graveyard
  • The Plum Tree
  • Calling Me Home
  • Looking for Me
  • Necessary Lies
  • Leaving Haven
  • The Wednesday Daughters
  • The Funeral Dress
  • The Banks of Certain Rivers
  • Once We Were Brothers
  • The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
  • The Last Camellia
  • The Promise of Stardust
  • The Secrets of Mary Bowser
  • The Pecan Man
  • Songs of Willow Frost
  • Hour of the Rat (Ellie McEnroe, #2)
  • The Aviator's Wife
Christina Baker Kline, the author of five novels, grew up in Maine, England, and the American South. She is married to a Midwesterner whose family history inspired her new novel, Orphan Train (April). Set in present-day Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train highlights the real-life story of the trains that between 1854 and 1929 carried more than 200,000 abandoned children from the East...more
More about Christina Baker Kline...
The Way Life Should Be Sweet Water Bird in Hand Desire Lines Child of Mine: Original Essays on Becoming a Mother

Share This Book

“I've come to think that's what heaven is- a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.” 45 likes
“I like the assumption that everyone is trying his best, and we should all just be kind to each other.” 33 likes
More quotes…