Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Molly Ayer is seventeen, a foster child living in Maine nearing the end of her time in the system. She has to fulfill a community service requirement to avoid being sent to juvie for stealing a library book. Molly’s boyfriend helps introduce Molly to Vivian, a ninety-one year old widow needing help to organize and sort the numerous items in her attic. While working together on the project of sorting decades of memories Molly and Vivian realize that they have a lot in common. Vivian is also an orphan. She was sent on an orphan train out of New York City in the late 1920s into the Midwest where strangers chose a child to bring home to adopt, or to use a free labor. As the two go through each box more of Vivian’s past is revealed and Molly becomes determined to help her new friend discover some of the secrets of her past.
The dual stories make the story come alive, more so than if it was a linear retelling of Vivian’s experiences. By comparing the brutal hardships of Vivian’s young life and the current uncertainty of Molly’s the reader hopes that just Vivian’s life gets better there is also hope for Molly’s life getting better as well. A quick engaging read – I read most of the book while waiting for an extremely delayed flight and if you can focus on a book while sitting in a busy noisy airport you know it must be a compelling read.