Sunday, September 25, 2016
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
This book is drawn from a real, but little known, part of American history. The Orphan Train Movement lasted from 1853 to the early 1900s. More than 120,000 homeless or neglected children (ranging in age from about 6 to 18) with little or no hope of a successful future, were removed from the poverty and debauchery of New York's city streets and sent by train to live and work on farms out west. They were placed in homes free, but would serve as an extra pair of hands to help with chores around the farm. They wouldn't be indentured, in fact older children placed by The Children's Aid Society were to be paid for their labors, but as with all idealistic endeavors such as this, some placements worked out very well where children were able to lead simple normal lives and go on to success, and some children struggled and no doubt wound up in situations where they were exploited.
In this story, a 91 year old woman (who was an orphan train rider) begins a friendship with a troubled teen who is a foster child that has been bounced from one unsuitable home to another. The story unfolds with Molly (the troubled teen) in present day, with flash backs told by Vivian (the 91 year old) about her experiences from 1929 through World War II.
It is a powerful tale of resilience, upheaval, second chances, and friendship that captures our universal desire to belong, experience family, and be accepted.