Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Kline (Bird in Hand, 2010) explores the relationship between two women, decades apart, but both reeling from being trapped in similar circumstances.
Orphan Train is narrated by the two main characters – Ninety-one-year-old Vivian Daly and seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer. Both know achingly well what it feels like to be abandoned and left to the devices of well-meaning organizations. A friendship is formed as young Molly is tagged for community service and ends up helping Vivian clean her attic. Molly has had a difficult time connecting to others and is in the process of ruining her latest foster care assignment with her bad choices, but she senses that Vivian is different. Cleaning Vivian’s attic is her last chance. Kline encourages readers to see past the hard, outside shell of her characters, by delving into their inner intentions and desires. Molly’s journey through foster care is as fast-paced as the teenager, while Vivian’s journey is slowly revealed through the opening of each box in the attic. Though odd objects, a life nearly completed informs the life newly begun. While Molly is on the brink of never trusting again, she slowly realizes that she is not alone in her struggle to make sense of her erratic life. She realizes that others have gone before her and she, too, can find her place. The juxtaposition of the older Vivian and the younger Molly showcases a budding friendship of shared experiences that transcend time. As Vivian’s life journey winds down, it is the friendship and determination of young Molly who help Vivian come full circle and live again with expectations. Based on historic events and places, Kline invites the reader to join Vivian and Molly as they reflect on their own struggles, choices, and difficulties along life’s path.
Inner strength, friendship, and two women who overcome unbearable hardships are the focus of this well written novel.