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Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.
This is a story of emotional, and at times, even physical survival. Two orphans, one who is now 91 and the other 17, cautiously reveal their life experiences to each other and find healing and transformation through the sharing. Each has been wounded by a series of cruel life events that have left them both feeling at times alone and vulnerable in life. Each has gone through childhood experiences that left them feeling at the mercy of others, not daring to trust that they could be loved just for being themselves.
91 year old Vivian was a young girl who was put on the train of orphans taken to be resettled in the Midwest just prior to the Great Depression. She must endure many harrowing events before finding any security in life. 17 year old Molly is in the foster care system and has frequently been victimized by her treatment in various homes. She goes to Vivian's house to help her as a condition of working off community service hours rather than go to "Juvie." In the beginning neither can imagine the transformation that will occur as they start going through Vivian's stored possessions, which both hold and evoke the memories of a life she has largely put behind her. Molly, who is at first a prickly, resentful teen, suspicious of anyone who seems to offer her a kindness is slow to warm to Vivian's genuine generosity. This is the story of two women, who on the surface could not be more different, finding the deepest sort of connection through their recognition of similar experiences.
This is a beautiful, touching book, filled with gripping emotional scenes that make it hard to put down. The writing is deeply evocative of the shifts of fortune each young girl is going through, and draws the reader right into the book. I almost felt I would know any of the characters if I were to meet them somewhere. Their courage is inspirational. More than this, though, this book forces the questions of how do we really care for and about those less fortunate? How often do we do things to salve own our conscience without deeply asking what is truly needed by others? This book raises all kinds of social questions about the role of the care and protection of children, and is, in one way, as unsettling at that level as it is heart-warming at another. The narrator is excellent, doing the voice of 91 year old Vivian or 17 year old Molly with equal ease. Such a wonderful listen. Highly recommend!
125 of 131 people found this review helpful
In 1929, an Irish girl whose parents died was shuttled on a train of orphans going to various mid-West stops in hopes of finding placement with a family. It wouldn't be a story if she didn't meet with hardships.
Now an elderly woman, "Dorothy" works with a girl from the foster care system to sort through her belongings. She recalls childhood memories and the two share a bond.
The book is a little predictable, you can guess what will happen, but the trip was worth it. Definitely recommend for an entertaining, fun read.
62 of 66 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
This is a story of a beautiful, empathetic, elderly lady, (Vivian), and a disjointed, hostile, teen, (Molly), who were both orphaned as young girls. Because of a bad choice Molly makes she is indentured to 50 hours of community service which in turn brings her into Vivian's life. Vivian needs help cleaning and sorting out her attic and ends up sharing her early childhood memories with Molly.<br/><br/>Vivian was born in 1920 and when tragedy struck she was orphaned at the age of nine. She was put on a train with many other children going from town to town hoping to be adopted. Some of the adoptions were for the right reasons and others definitely were not. Vivian was adopted by a staunch couple for the main purpose of working in their seamstress shop that was run out of their home. All things changed during the crash of 1929. Not many could afford to have their close mended and the couple had to close their business. Vivian was moved onto another home and so forth........<br/><br/>While Molly and Vivian are going through and dating all of the boxes in the attic Vivian tells Molly her story year by year. It is a sort of cleansing for Vivian and a awakening for Molly that she is not as alone as she thought. Through this process both characters experience unsuspected growth and enlightenment. Their friendship and bond, of course, out last the attic and the 50 hours.<br/><br/>This book is written beautifully and I was captivated from the beginning. The detail and nuances she uses in her descriptions of times, places and people were excellent. It evoked strong emotions and I felt very connected to the characters. The narrative was done very well. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would defiantly recommend it.
61 of 65 people found this review helpful
My wife and I listened to this book as she had a family member ride the orphan train to Kansas. The author spun a wonderful story amid historical fiction. I'm sure that the author spent countless hours researching this novel and her idea to use a present day foster child to connect with the orphan train was brilliant. The story probably has a lot more truth in it than fiction. It gives the modern reader insight into our past while bringing the modern plight of unloved kids to our attention. I must say that even if the whole book was made up and there was never any orphan trains the story itself would be a very good story. We hated it when it ended. The narrators did a great job as well. It was a very realistic performance when it came to Irish accents, etc. This book is one of those that is good for the whole family to read together provided the children are a little older. It has a sex scene in it that the author treated very gingerly, but was necessary to further the story. As I said, my wife and I listened to this together and we have different tastes in books. This book is well worth your credit and more than that - your time.
67 of 72 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
The story was fairly interesting, but the reader has an very irritating voice. I kept thinking that I would have enjoyed it more if there was a different reader.
Would you ever listen to anything by Christina Baker Kline again?
No. I would not have purchased this after listening to the small bit, but my book club selected it.
Would you be willing to try another one of Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren ’s performances?
No I don't know which one has the chirpy voice.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Any additional comments?
At least I can discuss it when my book group meets.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
I enjoyed the story, especially the sections set in the past. I did not love the narration at all! The narrator's voice was annoying. I'd bought the Kindle book as well (for Whispersync) and I ended up reading much more than listening.
27 of 29 people found this review helpful
Orphan Train tells the story of children who are shipped from the east coast to the plains states to be adopted by new families during the 1930s. Some are very lucky to find a new life with loving parents, Too many others find a life of drudgery, poverty, and "involuntary servitude" as they are "adopted" to provide free labor during the tough economic times of the Great Depression.
This story centers around a 9-year-old Irish lass, Niamh ("neev") whose family emigrates from Ireland to find a better life in New York City. The reality of life in America is difficult for the family to accept, especially for Niamh's father. The stories they've heard about this abundant land in no way compare to the squalor in which they find themselves.Orphaned at age 9, Niamh is one of the hundreds of children who are sent to the Great Plains to be adopted out instead of being cared for by the local orphanages.
Niamh exhibits the amazing resilience of children everywhere who have no choice but to live in desperate situations. She is first adopted to provide free labor as a seamstress, where her name is changed to Dorothy, Niamh being "just too Irish and Catholic" to be an acceptable name.
Niamh is fortunate enough to experience a "normal" and ultimately very successful life once she is freed from a horrendous adoptive home. Niamh grows up, falls in love and marries just as World War II is beginning.
At the age of 91, Niamh (now named Vivian) tells her story in flashbacks to a rebellious and sullen abandoned teenager, Molly, who is helping her clean her attic as a condition of her probation. They form an unlikely friendship and bond. Molly helps Vivian come to grips with one of her greatest losses, and thereby helps her find joy she had been denying herself.
Very enjoyable listen, very well narrrated. The story ending is probably much happier than most of these ophaned children experienced, and just a bit too neat and tidy. The biggest negative is the stereotypical drunkard Irish father. A bit more imagination here would have been a better idea.
27 of 29 people found this review helpful
Between 1854 - 1929 up to 250,000 children whose parents were dead or no longer able to care for them were transported from the East Coast to rural Midwest, Canada and Mexico. Families interested in adoption came to the train station to look them over and placements were often made with little or no attempt to ensure the children's safety or well-being. Unfortunately, many were used as slave labor by those who took them in.
Orphan Train is a fictional account of Vivian who, at 9 years old, was sent on the orphan train to Minnesota. Now 91 years of age, she befriends 17 year old Molly who has been in foster care most her life. The stories of Vivian and Molly run parallel throughout the book and although they seem an unlikely pair a strong bond develops.
Orphan Train is an enjoyable and inspiring listen with enough depth to the characters to keep me invested in their stories.The narration was the only let down for me but it wasn't bad enough to make me want to stop listening. It's a good read that I am happy to recommend.
38 of 42 people found this review helpful
The set up on this book is wonderful. It's two orphans, one 18, one 91 sorting through their lives. And the history that it covers on the orphan train is fascinating. She does an excellent slice of the immigrant experience.But there are so many questions unanswered at the end that I was completely unsatisfied. I so wish the author had taken us further into Vivian's amazing middle/older age. Sadly Disappointed!
14 of 15 people found this review helpful
While this was an OK book, it really belongs in the young adult / young teen section. It reminded me of books I read when I was about thirteen. It did prompt me to read more about Orphan Trains, which I did find interesting, so I did get something out of it>
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
I chose the book as it was on the New York bestseller list. I really enjoyed the way the story developed and especially Niamh/Vivienne's story. I did not particularly enjoy the 2011 part with Molly in it. I had no real interest in her but could see it was part of the setup of the story. It was really hard to read how orphan children were treated and how their lives were so disrupted or aided depending on who took them in. It makes you realise how lucky life is not to have had such experiences in it. I thought the narrative was very good and aided delivery of the story. I would highly recommend it.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
A rollercoaster of emotions and surprises. Would recommend to anyone as it's a great read xx
loved this from start to finish. strong story, strong characters and narrated very well.
What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?
The history - I want to find out more facts on the children who experienced this and inspired the story.
Did the narration match the pace of the story?
No it was too fast and dismissive of the story being told. Not completely the fault of the narrator as the writing style is somewhat dismissive too.
Any additional comments?
I was really looking forward to reading this but it turned out to be a lightweight, flat novel. Yes, I know it's fiction but still there was a great opportunity to share this hidden slice of social history when orphan children were placed with completely unsuitable families, albeit by authorities with the best of intentions.<br/><br/>Told from two time periods the story follows the 1920/30 orphan train experiences of Niamh (Irish born immigrant to the US), alongside a modern day foster care child, Molly. Molly is clearing out the loft of Viviene in punishment for a theft and this is how the two time strands link together. I'm fine with this parallel approach but the novel jumped frequently between the two times which I found distracting. <br/><br/>My biggest issue is the lack of emotion I felt, even when we hear about the terrible hardships Niamh experienced. I think the issue was the child point of view which meant there wasn't much depth to the reflection. The narrative also had a quality to it like someone is telling you a story at a party but it goes on and on without any respite. <br/><br/>Added to this was the fast paced, almost breathless narration. I tried to slow it down but it didn't work well. The narration was almost dismissive of the events she was telling the reader about.<br/><br/>In terms of the experiences of these children the novel has raised my interest and I would certainly seek out more on this topic. I did feel that Niamh seemed to have every disaster befall her, which may or may not be realistic. It isn't a bad novel per se, it just could've been done differently which would have increased my enjoyment.
What did you like most about Orphan Train?
I liked the pace of the book. I was always keen to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to these characters that you come to really care about.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Vivian was my favourite character because she showed enormous strength of character. She never forgot her past but didn't let it swallow her. She was very pragmatic and was determined to make the most of her future.
Which character – as performed by Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren – was your favourite?
Molly and Vivian's characters were both performed extremely well. My favourite would, again, be Vivian because there was more depth to her story.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Some of the events in this book are shocking and frightening and I wished I could step into the story and intervene. It is not, by any means, a miserable book though. It is really rather enlightening.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
the narrator's performance brings the story to life. an interesting and engaging presentation of the history of the orphan trains.
I loved it, heartbreaking, beautiful. Triumph over tragedy. I needed at least 3 more chapters. I couldn't stop listening.
Lovely intertwined stories spanning time and place
Significant historical backdrop
Motivated me to research a few things I didn't know and I'm now the richer for it
Amazing story that takes you on a wonderful journey. Felt like I was there, in the book. Enjoyed every minute and found it hard to put down. Loved the expression and accents, thank you !
great experience listening to this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it! this is a fast read /listen and you'll be captured in the story.
Thoroughly enjoyed this. Brilliantly narrated. Although a work of fiction, it has sparked my intrigue into finding out more about this era.
I loved this story - I easily found myself as a participant in this story - wishing - hoping both women to find happiness and peace