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“Orphan Train” – Christina Baker Kline

3.8 out of 4 stars.

A part of American history that I wish never occurred.

A historic fictional piece based in the early 1900s when orphans used to be hauled across country while making pit stops in small towns in the hopes of being given away to families. Sound like herding cattle? Exactly. Unfortunately, it gets worse. There were no background checks given and most people selecting these children were in it for child labor. The same kids that had just lost their parents are now having to deal with harsh weather conditions, backbreaking labor, little food, and no education.

The above is the life that Vivian Daly had to endure up until she turned 11 and finally struck gold with her third family, The Nielsons. She ends up turning out okay and getting married and living a life of wealth. No other action strikes in her life until she is 91 years old and meets Molly Ayer.

Molly, an orphan herself, is struggling at the age of 17 to find her place in this life. She keeps getting discarded and no one seems to level with the woman she has become. She acts out in rebellion because it is the only thing that gains her any attention. After stealing a book from the local library, Molly is sentenced to 50 hours of community service and that is when she falls in Vivian Daly’s household. Her job? To clean up the 70 + year old attic of memories Vivian has accrued over her bumpy life.

The rest they say is history.

I found this book so fascinating because I did not even realize this part of America’s timeline existed. The sheer numbers are crazy – 20,000 orphans were transported from 1854 and 1929 and it is hardly ever spoken about. I feel ashamed to say I was left in the dark about all of this but if it wasn’t taught in my school’s curriculum it was hard for me to come upon that sort of information. I believe the bigger question is why it isn’t being brought up more in textbooks and lectures?

All the more reason it should be your book club’s next read. We all need to spread the word about the mistreatment that were endured during the beginning stages of the adoption process being created. I understand that these troubles are in the past but in order to shed light and respect on people who had to go through it we need to acknowledge that it happened.

Overall a VERY touching book that was troublesome for me to read based on its harsh reality but in the end I feel more blessed having read it because it is easy to forget sometimes how fortunate we all are to have a simple roof over our head in this day an age of cell phones, iPads, big screen televisions, and overall gluttony. REMEMBER HOW LUCKY WE ARE!







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