This is a book that I flew through in a day….Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I have always been drawn to stories about orphans…every since I could read. Do we even use that word anymore to describe a child who has lost their parents? Or has it become a bad word? I am not 100% certain. I do know that my paternal grandmother was an orphan, and unfortunately, she has passed away. I wish I would have had the foresight to sit down and talk to her about her childhood….what is was like growing up in a orphanage. How it shaped her and so many more questions that continue to pop into mind. Sadly, I do not have that opportunity, so maybe I am drawn to the stories of orphans….both fiction and nonfiction in hopes of finding some connection or some understanding that could bring me closer to her. What I do know is that at the age of 12, her aunt found her in the orphanage and came and brought her home to live. I know little of her life during those 12 years, and I am hungry for information about them. She died with a clear mind, a strong spirit and a grand sense of humor. I was lucky to be one of the last people who kissed her and held her hand before she passed on….I just wish I would have had more time.
So my ramblings, brings me to the book Orphan Train. I thought orphan trains were common knowledge, but I was wrong. My own husband had no clue what they were until this weekend. There were trains in the 1850-1930s that scooped up orphans in New York and other places in the East. The cleaned them up, provided them with chaperones and sent them out west. Flyers were sent out to western cities advertising orphans for free to a good home. The orphans would line up and hopefully be selected to a good home. However, that was not always the case….older boys were taken for labor on farms…not as sons and young girls were to do cooking, cleaning, sewing and babysitting for big families. Babies were the ones with the most chance. Many of these children were abused, neglected and ran away….never having a connection to a real family.
This books bounces between 1929-30 and 2011. It follows an orphaned girl aboard the train to the present with 16-year-old Molly who is a modern-day orphan. Both are trying to find their way.
A great….sad….yet hopeful book.