Orphan Train is one of those books you can read over a weekend. I found myself totally caught up in the intertwining stories of Molly and Vivian. Seventeen year old Molly was a foster child, had been bounced around from family to family and was used to disappointment. In fact, when things did go right in her life, she had no idea how to handle it. At such a young age she had already figured out that it was better to be perceived as tough and weird than weak and vulnerable.
When once again, Molly found herself in trouble, her foster-mother, Dina was not at all surprised. Dina was always finding fault in Molly, considered her untrustworthy and was just waiting for Molly to slip up. This time Molly had tried to steal an old ragged copy of Jane Eyre from the library. Molly had wanted this book more than anything and was too shy to ask the clerk at the local book store to order it for her. The library had several other newer copies so who would ever miss it? Of course Molly was caught trying to sneak it out and it was either off to juvie or community service for her.
Molly removed her nose ring, put on borrowed clothing and reported to the home of 91-year-old Vivian where she would complete her 40 hours of community service. Just what Molly wanted to do….clean up some old ladies attic. Although she did not realize it at the time, this assignment was going to be one of the best things that had ever happened to Molly. These two women had more in common than anyone would have guessed. When Vivian was a young girl she too had lost both her parents. Little by little, box by box Vivian shares her story of how she arrived in Minnesota via an Orphan Train.
Orphan Train is a beautiful and inspiring story and I fell in love with both Molly and Vivian. Christina Baker Kline does a wonderful job of weaving these two very different, yet similar stories. The comparison between our modern-day foster system and the supervised welfare program called The Orphan Train Movement was fascinating. My only criticism is that it left me wanting more, and how can that be a bad thing? I want to know more about the Orphan Train Movement that transported over 250,000 homeless children from eastern cities to the rural midwest between 1853 and 1929. I want to know more about a welfare program which allowed couples to pre-select children by filling out an order form and checking off the age, gender, and even such traits as hair color they desired.
Orphan Train is an excellent discussion book. Over coffee and eggs (although not necessarily omelets) we talked about Molly and Vivian’s plight which led to a thoughtful discussion of The Orphan Train Movement which was the predecessor to our modern-day foster system.Was it a good plan? How could it have been better? Orphan Train is a quick, easy read and more than anything piqued my interest.
I give Orphan Train 4 1/2 omelets! How about you?