Christine Baker Kline captured a beautiful story about a search for family, but also sheds light on a forgotten chapter in American history. In the time period between 1854 and 1929, aptly named, orphan trains traveled from cities on the East coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of children who had been abandoned. The question of their fate depended on whether they were adopted by a loving family or whether they were chosen by a family who expected hard labor and servitude from them. One such child was a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly, who was sent by rail from New York City to face an uncertain future.
Later in her life, Vivian returned to the East to the coast of Maine, where she leads a quiet existence and where only blurred evidence of her past secretly creeps into her thoughts. She has stored away evidence of that time in trunks in the attic. Only when seventeen year old Molly Ayer accepts a community service job helping an elderly widow clean out her attic ( the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall ) will it be discovered that she and Vivian are not so different. In going through Vivian’s keepsakes and possessions, she sees that they have both moved in and out of foster homes, and were raised by strangers. They both have unanswered questions about their past.
The story takes the reader between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota. “Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship”.