Book Review: Orphan Train by Christiana Baker Kline

orphanTitle: Orphan Train
Author: Christina Baker Kline
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date:  April 2, 2013

Book Summary:      

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by luck or chance.  Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.


alleluilus review


This is the best book I have read for a while. I was surprised when I started reading the first page because I expected to be transported immediately to the train in the past, but I wasn’t. The setting was the present day in Maine! Molly was a teenager in the foster care system. Yes, her situation was a bit predictable, but it didn’t make you lose your interest in what would happen next. Vivian is a 90-year old rich woman who wants her attic cleaned out. The story jumps from when Vivian was a child and the present day. I liked that because the parts got closer together as you read. The things they found in the attic inspired memories and stories from the past. It was a very sad story; however, the strength that Vivian gained through all her hardships shaped her life. Molly experience the same types of things. They also realized that everything that happened had a reason and each event led to the next one.  Vivian’s past was very realistic and gave the reader an insight into that time. It sounds as though her experience as an orphan train rider was pretty typical. She had some very hard situations to manage, but she did it!


I recommend this book for anyone interested in historical fiction, the orphan train and young people overcoming the odds stacked against them. There was one incident where Vivian a.k.a. Dorothy was attacked and nearly raped, but as I said, every incident was connected and led to the next circumstance so I believe the author had to include it. Other than that, the book was quite clean. It was so good. There are some surprises, and I have to warn you, you will cry at the ending. I did.


5 stars

Rating: 5 Stars – I Loved It 

Content: One incident of attempted rape; no foul language; there were stories of the children being beaten by their foster parents, but no first-hand violence. Some people took advantage of the free labor they got when they took in foster child or an orphan train rider.


Source: Purchased from Barnes & Noble for my Nook Simple Touch.


Oprhan Train can be purchased at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.




  1. This looks really interesting, I added it to my list! I’d never heard of the orphan trains before but then in May, I went to the TX Library Con and the booth next to our work one was this couple who traveled to libraries singing & talking about them. It was really interesting & they were promoting their book too. Here’s their website: (not trying to push it, just if you’re interested! :))

  2. Both my husband and I liked this book too! Nice review.

  3. I read and reviewed this recently too. Entertaining story but I felt like it could have been meatier and was a bit rushed. Check out my review!