A friend of mine gave me a copy of Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline for my birthday. A fellow bookworm hungry for words, she was nervous that I may not like it. Truthfully, it’s likely the kind of book my eyes would only skim past at the book store.
This morning I lay in bed for an extra couple of hours with a cup of coffee, and devoured the remaining chapters; a lump in my throat and a sense of regret as the end drew nearer.
The story seesaws smoothly between two eras. We learn about Molly, a foster child in Maine, 2011, for whom life and integrating into her new foster home is a struggle. We follow her as she finds herself helping an elderly woman, Vivian, sift through her worldly possessions, unearthing the past. Slipping back in time, we learn the harrowing story of Niamh, a young Irish girl in the 1930s, embarking on a new life aboard the Orphan Train to Minnesota.
The inspiration behind the story is based on fact. Orphan Trains really did carry hundreds of thousands of children across America, in search of new homes. Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train is a story of loss and hardship, but also hope and resilience. It navigates the fine tightrope between heartbreaking and heartwarming, swaying to and fro. Powerful yet understated cultural references remind us that personal journeys are universal. Whether you arrived in your current place on a boat from a war torn country, or on a plane with a passport in hand; whether you have never left your hometown or carry your home with you, Orphan Train will leave you with a belief in the power of connection, and a longing to share stories over cold cups of tea until midnight.