Monday, April 8, 2013

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline


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 ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. 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.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
ISBN 0061950726 (ISBN13: 9780061950728)

About the Author

Christina Baker Kline is a novelist, nonfiction writer and editor. In addition to Bird in Hand, her novels include The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines and Sweet Water. She is Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University and an on-staff editor and writing coach at the social networking site

Kline is coeditor, with Anne Burt, of a collection of personal essays called About Face: Women Write About What They See When They Look in the Mirror. She also commissioned and edited two widely praised collections of original essays on the first year of parenthood and raising young children, Child of Mine and Room to Grow. She is co-author, with her mother, Christina Looper Baker, of a book on feminist mothers and daughters, The Conversation Begins. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Yale Review, Southern Living, Ms., Parents, and Family Life, among other places.

Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is a graduate of Yale, Cambridge, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing. In addition to Fordham, she has taught fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, English literature, literary theory, and women’s studies at Yale, New York University, and Drew University. She is a recent recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship, a Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a Fordham Faculty Research Grant. She donates her time and editing skills to a number of organizations in New Jersey and Maine, including Volunteer Lawyers for Justice ( and JumpStart (

Kline has worked as a caterer, cook, and personal chef on the Maine coast, Martha’s Vineyard, and in Charlottesville, Virginia. She lives in an old house in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, David Kline, and three boys, Hayden, Will, and Eli.  She spends summers with extended family in an even older house on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

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My Thoughts
I believe in ghosts. They're the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind. Many times in my life I have felt them around me, observing, witnessing, when no one in the living world knew or cared what happened.

I am ninety-one years old, and almost everyone who was once in my life is now a ghost.

This book covers a lot of geography, from Ireland to New York, across the country by train to Minnesota and then modern day in Maine. But the orphan train stops at the Milwaukee Road train depot in Minneapolis, which may have once been this building (which seems to maybe be a Marriott today).

By SusanLesch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Molly is a troubled teen. She's been in and out of foster homes for years, and has learned if you don't depend on anyone, then you won't be let down. After getting herself in a little trouble, she is ordered to perform community service, and finds herself helping an elderly woman sort through boxes of memories in her attic. 

Molly is troubled, but likable. And there is something special there. It's just that no one has taken the time to see her for who she really is. When she is given the opportunity to perform her community service assisting an elderly woman clean out her attic, she figures she'll just bide her time and get it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible. What she doesn't expect is to find a friend.

91-year-old Vivian knows that she has reached the end of her life, and it is the perfect time to sort through old boxes that hold old memories. As she sorts through boxes, we are led through Vivian's troubled past as an orphan, shipped cross-country by train from New York to Minnesota in hopes of finding her a home.

I was more fond of the scenes from the 30s than the current moments between Vivian and Molly. I often found the present-day scenes to be somehow unrealistic-- particularly the scenes between Molly and her foster parents.

The moments between Vivian and Dutchy were touching. The heartbreaks that this little girl endured were devastating and hard to read. You keep hoping she will catch a break and find some happiness and security. 
Like an abandoned foal that nestles against cows in the barnyard, maybe I just need to feel the warmth of belonging. (page 107)
I know too much; I have seen people at their worst, at their most desperate and selfish, and this knowledge makes me wary. So I am learning to pretend, to smile and nod, to display empathy I do not feel. I am learning to pass, to look like everyone else, even though I feel broken inside. (page 112)
You can see the parallels between Vivian and Molly, and as you hoped for the best for the young and vulnerable Vivian, you also find yourself hoping that Molly will find happiness and a place to call home.

My final word: I thought the scenes from Vivian's youth were fabulous! The scenes from Molly's interactions with her foster family seemed to lack...credibility. I liked the relationship that develops between Molly and Vivian, even though near the end some of their interactions seem a little hokey and overdone. Overall I really enjoyed this story, but mostly for the glimpses of the young hapless Vivian. The jumps to present day actually continually pulled me out of the story that I was immersed in, and the move felt somewhat awkward.

My thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.
Check out the master schedule on their website:

Tuesday, April 2nd: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, April 3rd: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, April 4th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, April 8th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, April 10th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, April 11th: Melody & Words
Monday, April 15th: Excellent Library
Tuesday, April 16th: The House of the Seven Tails
Wednesday, April 17th: missris
Thursday, April 18th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, April 22nd: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, April 23rd: Book Chatter

Buy Now:

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Cover: A-
Writing Style:

My Rating:

Giveaway: Want a chance to win your own copy? Check out my giveaway!


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I read another book about an orphan train recently and it was actually the first time I'd heard of it. It blows my mind that people actually sent kids away like that ... crazy!

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

duracell powermat review said...

ORPHAN TRAIN is a fictional novel based on historical fact. This emotionally charged novel is both thought provoking and very moving. Christina Baker Kline has a knack for placing a reader right in the mix of things and stirring up an emotional response. A highly recommended read.