Orphan Train–Christina Baker Kline

I know loads of readers have blogged about this book.  I heard about it on a public radio show on a late Saturday afternoon and was intrigued.  I had watched a documentary on the orphan trains and read some articles, so a novelized version for young adults seemed like a great idea.

The old woman whose attic young delinquent Molly is supposed to clean, Vivian, is a vibrant character.  We hear most about her, both in the present and, through flashback chapters, in her childhood coming from Ireland to New York and then, via the orphan train, to Minnesota.  I loved this story line.  Molly’s character, not really an orphan, with a dead father and a troubled mother, seems a little too easy.  In and out of various foster homes where she is never really loved and often mistreated, Molly provides a modern reaction to the situation in which Vivian found herself.  I was struck by how much worse Vivian’s situation was, and yet how much more positive she remained.  Does Baker Kline want us to see foster care as worst than the orphan trains?  Equivalent?  That we shudder at the story of the orphan trains, but are satisfied with the flaws of foster care?

Baker Kline goes one step too far in making Molly part Native American, which gives her yet another strike in our society.  I was not sure why just being a child badly treated by the foster system was not enough and ended up wondering if it was a way to check off another box for potential school reading.

This book has been very popular with reading groups, particularly mother-daughter reading groups.  I would love to see it made into a movie.  Christopher Monger is tasked with adapting it for the screen and Broad Green have optioned it for the big screen.

Finished 10/15


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