Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Orphan Train” as Want to Read:
Orphan Train
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Excerpt

Orphan Train

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  411,658 ratings  ·  30,950 reviews
This is an alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780061950728, found here.

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 adolesce
Paperback, 278 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
More Details... Edit Details
Featured Notes & Highlights

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Orphan Train, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Alicia Boyle Mascara was around during the great depression and it had a habit of running down ones face. Here's an ad.
Mascara was around during the great depression and it had a habit of running down ones face. Here's an ad.
Watermelon candy was available during the depression era. You can read about watermelon candy in other books about the depression. In the book "Voices of the Great Depression--The 1930's"by Cinda Anderson on page 14 the write mentions watermelon candy. I think it my have been an off shoot of the Turkish delight/orange fruit slices type candy.(less)
Jessie Me too, the book is amazing and I have read it multiple times, and would love to read it again!

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  411,658 ratings  ·  30,950 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Orphan Train
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Marla Mutch
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, novel
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
Emily May
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, 2015
"In my nightmares I am alone on a train, heading into the wilderness. Or in a maze of hay bales. Or walking the streets of a big city, gazing at lights in every window, seeing the families inside, none of them mine."

After my book club chose Orphan Train for our next meet-up, I picked up my copy and started reading just a little of the first page to get a "feel" for what the book would be like. I didn't intend to finish it right now, or even read any more than the first page, but I somehow en
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Diane Yannick
Nov 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 plan concocted by the Children's Aid Society. 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 ...more
B the BookAddict
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: GR

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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train, highlights the real-life story of the orphan trains that between 1854 and 1929 carried thousands of orphaned, abandoned, and destitute children from the East Coast to the Midwest.

A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have h
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
elena ❀
Dec 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I leave four children I could not help and did not love. I leave a place of degradation and squalor, the likes of which I will never experience again. And I leave any last shred of my childhood on the rough planks of that living room floor.

The Orphan Train Movement was a regulated government assistance program that shipped stranded and homeless children from swarmed Eastern urban communities of the United States to cultivate homes found to a great extent in rustic regions of the Midw
The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is a 2013 William Morrow Paperbacks publication.

I had heard such wonderful things about this book and have wanted to read it for a long time. Finally, with the decision to push the pause button on so many review copies and float back into reading for pure pleasure, I found the time to work this one in the TBR pile.

This is just one of those really awesome stories that weaves historical details within a contemporary setting and enriches the lives of all
Hanna F
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1-fiction
4 stars to Christina Baker Kline's Orphan Train. It is a beautiful book - everything from the story to the imagery. Two parallel stories being told about what happens to a young girl when her family life is threatened. The elder, a 90-something year old woman remembering her past. The younger, a teenager doing community service for the 90 year old. They bond. They fight. The stories nearly become one. And perhaps one of them will get to answer the question "who am I, really?" You feel so connect ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
I really loved this book. I am still wrapping my feeling about this book up because there was so much put into the 273 pages of this book. This book is a historical fiction book about the orphan trains that ran form the east coast cities to the farmlands if the Midwest between 1854 to 1929. In this book we follow two time lines. One of the time lines starts one at 1929 following young Irish immigrant Vivian, but some of the people that take her in changes her name. The other time line is 2011, a ...more
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Time constricts and flattens, you know. It’s not evenly weighted. Certain moments linger in the mind and others disappear.”

There’s no sugar coating it - this story broke my heart. I had no idea there were orphaned children that faced this fate; being thrown on a train from New York to the midwest in order to find a “family”. I say “family” because these people were looking for free labor as opposed to a child they were going to love.

The past is told from Niamh’s perspective, an Irish girl t
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
"They call this an orphan train, children, and you are lucky to be on it. You are leaving behind an evil place, full of ignorance, poverty, and vice, for the nobility of country life."

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me. According to the author, between the years 1854 and 1929, two-hundred thousand orphaned or abandoned children were transported from the East coast to the Midwest on these so-called orphan trains. They were suppose
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reading Orphan Train was like lifting the curtain on a part of our American history that many people are still unaware of. Thousands of children, the orphaned and the unwanted, were transported from cities of the East to the farmlands and small towns of the Midwest at the turn of the century and on into the Great Depression. It was a time of no background screening, minimal paperwork, and only a willingness to alleviate the hoards of children who were homeless for a multitude of reasons. While s ...more
I became aware of this novel after reading the picture book titled Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting (highly recommend for younger readers!); therefore, I just had to read this particular book about a moving time in history! Even though I read this dual timeline book several years ago, Vivian's story was the part I enjoyed most!

A very heartrending must-read about this dark chapter in American history!
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Orphan Train is a heartbreaking but insightful read of two women who were abandoned early on in life. In 1929, Niamh’s family immigrated from Ireland to New York City. However, they pass away in a fire, and nine year old Niamh is sent to the Children’s Aid Society and ultimately on an orphan train going to the Midwest. Herself along with other orphans need homes, but we learn that the people taking them in are mostly looking for labor. Niamh lands in a few homes in Minnesota and sadly experience ...more
"Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline completely tugged at my heartstrings. Vivian and Molly might have a huge age gap between them, (Vivian is 91, Molly is 17) but both these sweet and sensitive ladies share a similar childhood. Both come from toxic families, and were later placed in foster care after becoming orphans. I found myself drawn to Vivian's chapters more than Molly's (not that Molly's chapters were boring or anything). Vivian's turbulent life aboard the orphan train had me in tears ...more
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
3.5 Stars

I am not sure if this was the best time for me to have read Orphan Train, so it's hard for me to rate this one. I read mostly for enjoyment and to learn something and how I feel and timing play a huge part in when and what I choose to read. I really did enjoy this one and I do love to be taken on an emotional journey and I definitely learned something here, as I was unaware of Orphan trains. I was mostly on my own emotional train and missed feeling some of the emotions I would of normal
Diane S ☔
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a historical fiction. I really loved this book. I am still wrapping my feeling about this book up because there was so much put into the 273 pages of this book. This book is a historical fiction book about the orphan trains that ran form the east coast cities to the farmlands if the Midwest between 1854 to 1929. In this book we follow two time lines. One of the time lines starts one at 1929 following young Irish immigrant Vivian, but some of the people that take her in changes her name. ...more
Troubled 17-year-old Penobscot Indian girl, Molly Ayer, moves from foster home to foster home after her father died in a car accident and her mom disappeared into her own haven of drugs and damnation.

Molly is found guilty of a misdemeanor and has to do community service, which brings her in contact with 91-year-old Vivian Daly, who had more with Molly in common than she could ever imagine. Both were orphaned, but in different eras and both had a story to tell.

Orphans were like turtles. They ca
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
1920's America, orphans were put on trains and taken to the Midwest. At each stop that the train pulled into some people were willing to take on a child either to adopt or to work for them. Some were treated like family members and well treated, other children were not so lucky. This is the story of one girl who is now an old lady and is telling her story to a girl who is helping her clear out her attic. Quite sad in parts as is was based on a true story. ...more
Feb 12, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Orphan Train Wreck

The book I just read was terrible. It’s so bad, I thought that I might be the victim a literary candid camera type gag, where I would get to the last page and read “HA HA HA… you just read the fake parody version of Orphan Train.” Everything about this book was bad. Each and every character was straight out of central casting. The plot was predictable, rushed and overcrowded with stuff. If you saw any of my updates, you will know that the writing was gratuitously descriptive an
Debbie "DJ"
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I listened to this one instead of reading, and think reading is the way to go. While still really liking the story, the narration just wasn't great. That being said, there's just no way to go wrong with this book. I had never heard of these "Orphan Trains," and still find it heartbreaking to see just how horribly humans can treat one another, especially children. These trains, carrying homeless, abandoned, and orphaned kids ran for many years, up until 1929. While supposedly helping find kids ho ...more
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Before We Were Yours
  • All the Ways We Said Goodbye
  • This Is Not How It Ends
  • The Nightingale
  • Sarah's Key
  • Lilac Girls
  • Water for Elephants
  • High Achiever: The Incredible True Story of One Addict's Double Life
  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
  • All the Light We Cannot See
  • The Alice Network
  • The Light Between Oceans
  • The Secret Life of Bees
  • The Help
  • Adoption Stories: Excerpts from Adoption Books for Adults
  • The Art of Inheriting Secrets
  • The Red Tent
  • The Kitchen House
See similar books…
See top shelves…
A #1 New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including The Exiles, Orphan Train, and A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline is published in 40 countries. Her novels have received the New England Prize for Fiction, the Maine Literary Award, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, among other prizes, and have been chosen by hundreds of communities, universities and schools as “One Book, ...more

Articles featuring this book

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
51 likes · 32 comments
“I've come to think that's what heaven is- a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.” 173 likes
“I like the assumption that everyone is trying his best, and we should all just be kind to each other.” 120 likes
More quotes…