Orphan Train - A Little Known Slice of American History
A Historical Novel
Did you know that over 200,000 children were moved from East Coast cities to the Midwest for adoption in the mid-19th to early 20th century? I did not, until I read Orphan Train.
The story is weaved intricately through the unknown, but parallel lives of two characters, Molly and Vivian. Molly is a high school teen who has been in and out of several foster homes for most of her life. She commits a wrong doing and has to perform community service hours. She ends up helping an elderly widow, Vivian, clean out the attic of her old house. You can almost feel the curtains blowing in the Maine sea breeze every time they go in the attic to "clean out" some more of Vivian's lifetime of memories that are stored in trunks and boxes. Through this cleansing of sorts, Molly and Vivian discover their lives to be very similar and a special bond develops between then.
The settings take us back and forth from the East Coast to the Midwest part of the United States in the turbulent but ever changing late 19th to early 20th century; sometimes in thought and imagination, and sometimes by train.
Christina Baker Kline leads us through a little known piece of American history that will make you research this happening and perhaps ask questions to those who are still witnesses and participants of the orphan trains. In fact, my girlfriend read this book and she and her mother (who was adopted) are questioning whether her mom was an orphan on the trains!
It is not often that I have the time to read a book all in one setting but I could not put this book down and did read it in one 24-hour period. It is that good.
Orphan Train Museum - Concordia, Kansas
On a recent drive to Nebraska, I drove through the Kansas town of Concordia where much to my surprise, there is a museum on the orphan train. Since it was evening, I could not stop but I hope to visit it on one of my next car trips through that area.
Orphan Train Complex
Some excellent videos with more factual information on orphan trains.