Monday, November 24, 2014

Orphan Train

Author: Christina Baker Kline
Info: William Morrow Paperback, copyright 2013, 294 pages

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.

~Goodreads Description~

An adult book!  Go Emily!  So maybe I didn't pick it out for myself.  Maybe it was a book club selection.  But by golly, it's an adult book, and that doesn't happen too often around these here parts.  And it was a good one at that!

Molly Ayer is a foster kid who masks her angry and frustration behind black hair, combat boots, and a bad attitude.  After getting caught committing a crime (which I'll get to in just a minute :), she's tasked with completing fifty community service hours.  Luckily, her boyfriend sets her up cleaning the attic of Ms. Vivian Daly, a widow with a big house full of memories.  The story alternates between Molly's life and the long, heartbreaking tale of Niamh/Dorothy/Vivian.

There's always the trouble of giving each character their due when you switch perspectives throughout a story.  The story is really Vivian's.  We follow her from childhood through adulthood with Molly's story tacked on as a plot device to allow for Vivian's story to be told.  I liked Viv's story, but I would have also liked a little more of Molly.

And poor Molly.  So Molly gets caught stealing an old library book and is arrested.  What?!  No really!  What librarian calls the police when a patron walks out with a book?  An old book with multiple copies on the shelf?  Terrible portrayal of librarians, especially when the librarian confesses that she'd been watching Molly and knew she'd be trouble.  For shame.  I'd like to see the author down and get to the bottom of her hatred for librarians.

The story is extremely predictable but fast-paced and interesting.  It's just an easy read.  You quickly get absorbed into Vivian's story, and before you know it, the book is over.  It's also an interesting snapshot of history, providing enough detail to be interesting, but not enough to annoy you.

Orphan Train isn't a perfect read, but it's a good read.  If you like sad stories with a happy ending, pick it up and give it a read.

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