Orphan Train: A Book Review

I lose control in bookstores and blow entire budgets. About a year ago, I picked up a stack of books that included one entitled Orphan Train. A former co-worker suggested it and I wanted to read something outside of my wheel house.

Needless to say it was the last book in the stack. I simply didn’t want to read it. I bought others while it sat collecting dust on a surface in my bedroom. Well, honey, I finally ran out of money and had to read what was already in the house.

I opened the cover and was thoroughly unimpressed. It’s the story of a Irish immigrant who becomes an orphan after most of her family is killed in a fire, and a parent-less teen she meets 80 years later who helps her revisit her past and connect with her future.

I felt it was cliché all day. The teen, Molly, lost her parents to a car crash and addiction. The Irish woman, Vivian, managed to become a wealthy woman living in a cavernous home in Maine. I’ve been reading really harrowing stories like that of Coretta Scott King, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and about once a month I read my son a children’s book based on the childhood of Congressman John Lewis. I am not here for clichés and fairy tales at this moment in my life.

Well I couldn’t afford another book, so I kept turning the pages. Guess what? I got over myself and absorbed the words. I “watched” as Molly and Vivian connected. I became enthralled by Vivian’s tale of being packed on a train with other children and taken to the Midwest, where they were given to people who pretty much wanted slaves. Then I began to realize that what she endured was still so similar to Molly’s modern tale of living in foster care – people taking you in for the cash and treating you like you are less than a person.

This book touched me deeply as a member of the adoption community. This history of children being rounded up, sent to the Midwest and turned into indentured servants is just one of the many reasons there are negative connotations attached to adoption.

Ultimately, I fell in love with this book. Vivian with her gentle, but steady fight to stay alive and chameleon-like abilities, will stay with me. I’m not sure how I feel about Molly, but I don’t hate her. Her story just didn’t pull at my heart. Maybe because she’s a modern teen?

This book does a good job of introducing you to another one of America’s shameful secrets from the past. I’d give it a 7 out of 10, if I were into scales and such:-)


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