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Orphan Train

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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  299,570 Ratings  ·  26,435 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, 278 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Popular Answered Questions
Jessie Me too, the book is amazing and I have read it multiple times, and would love to read it again!
Mary Loucks-Cummings Yes, it's based on factual events in history, but the characters and some places are fictional.

Community Reviews

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Rachel
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
...more
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
"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 ende
...more
Jennifer
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
...more
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
...more
Jules
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
...more
Julie
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
...more
Hanna Gichard
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
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
James
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Monika330
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
...more
Candi
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
...more
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
Melissa
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 tha
...more
Theresa
"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
Nicole
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
Brenda - Traveling Sister
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-have
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
...more
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
Pauline
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.
Linda
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
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
Margitte
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
...more
Renata
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stand-alone
El tren de los huérfanos creo que se ha convertido en uno de mis libros favoritos.

El libro cuenta una historia poco conocida de Estados Unidos y realmente me dejó con la boca abierta saber que estas cosas han pasado de verdad. Básicamente entre 1854 y 1929 habían trenes que llevaban a miles de niños huérfanos, abandonados, sin techo por todas las ciudades de Estados Unidos para que los adoptaran familias. En una ciudad determinada, por ejemplo Chicago, a las 11 de la mañana venían familias y re
...more
KatieMc
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
...more
Kathy
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
Ruth
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Melanie
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book :-). I had never heard of the Orphan Trains so it was great to learn something while reading. The parts of the book set in the past were my favorite although I did like Molly's story as well. I had a few tears at the end. Looking forward to the movie :-).
Whitney Atkinson
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This seemed a solid three-star book to me throughout just because it was an engaging and well-done story, but I didn't find a particular attachment to the characters, nor did I see how the threads between the two perspectives wove together. It operated somewhat on the surface level, and though it was a sad story, I felt it played it very safe. I added a whole star for the last third of the book, though, when the stakes were raised and I had to put the book down because I was crying so much.

I th
...more
Chrissie
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
I am pleasantly surprised by Orphan Train. Some of the lines are very well written. The book is told from the perspective of two young girls, each in their own way orphans, one living in contemporary times and the other back during the years of the Depression. The historical thread is based on the orphan trains that transported orphaned and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes in rural areas of the Midwest. The central theme is however how it feels t ...more
Lou
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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3,291 followers
Christina Baker Kline is the author of New York Times instant bestseller A Piece of the World (2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World. Kline has written six other novels -- Orphan Train, Orphan Train Girl, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines-- and written or edited five works of non ...more
More about Christina Baker Kline

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“I've come to think that's what heaven is- a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.” 140 likes
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