I have to admit, I cheated a little on this review. When I saw Orphan Train on a book tour list ahead of Kline’s upcoming new release, A Piece of the World, I had to choose them both, even though I read Orphan Train already last year. I had heard about it multiple times and thought it sounded good, so I borrowed it from the library and dove in.
“A lovely novel about the search for family that also happens to illuminate a fascinating and forgotten chapter of America’s history. Beautiful.”—Ann Packer
The story jumps between two times and places: present-day Maine and Depression-era Minnesota. Our main characters are a troubled teen (Molly) in a foster home and a 91-year-old woman (Vivian) with a hidden past as an Irish immigrant on the orphan train. Both women’s struggles to define “family” ends up forming a bond between the two that neither of them expect.
As a child, Vivian was an Irish immigrant forced to ride the orphan train, a real occurrence in U.S. history – immigrant children were forced to take a train into the Midwest to be selected by families. Many of these selections weren’t for reasons that families adopt children today – they were chosen more to work.
As Molly sorts through Vivian’s attic as a community service project, we dive deeper into Vivian’s story of hardships she suffered at the hands of a couple different families in Minnesota. The story was so captivating and emotional, I just loved it. I loved the parallels between the lives of the two women, and the way they connect with each other, even across several generations. I won’t give away the ending, but it was, in my opinion, the best way the story could have ended.
This is the kind of story I love to read, and this one was really well done. Needless to say, I’m really excited to read A Piece of the World! Stay tuned for that review. For Orphan Train, 4 stars.