Sunday, July 07, 2013

TSS: Finally Reviewing Orphan Train and Summer Lovin' Wrap-Up

No part of me expected to like Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. These are oft-repeated words when I'm blindly throwing myself into a book for my Girls Night Out face-to-face book club. I really thought this was gonna stink it up. I just didn't think it was for me. Especially since it's the eleventy-fifth book we've read that features dual narrators. 

But yeah. Whenever I think I'm not gonna like an unfamiliar-to-me book, I love it! So, I should just let someone else make all my reading decisions and if I know little-to-nothing about the book, even better! Those are the big winners (see Me Before You, The Obituary Writer). 


Anyway, back to Orphan Train. The blurb, lifted from Goodreads


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.


Of the two narrators in this book, I absolutely adored, fell in love with, and pulled for, Vivian. Molly, I sort of just put up with--in the early parts of the book. As is often the case with split narratives that alternate in time period, the reader (ME) warms up to one storyline far more than the other.  In my case, I usually prefer the historical narrative, and this was no exception. I wanted to wallow in Vivian's story. I wanted to stay with her despite all the horrible things she went through: a seamstress in a family's business, a maid on a farm crawling with detestable people, and finally as a daughter to a family of store owners -- all the massive hurdles she had to jump. I loved watching her grow up and move from one family to the next because, even though I disliked most of them and what Vivian was put through, the individual families' plights added to the color of the story. 


Molly wasn't bad, I guess. She was certainly a necessary character to bring the story to its climax and conclusion. However, she was far less vivid to me. Her story--an orphan about to "age out" of the foster system, a bratty teen who learns valuable life lessons from the sage elderly friend--is one I've read before. Meh. 


I was completely unfamiliar with the historical fact of "orphan trains." If you're as ill-informed as I was, you can read more at PBS, here


Overall this was a very entertaining book. One that's really stuck with me, even if those memories are heavily weighted toward one storyline rather than both. Give it a try if you get a chance!



Pub. Date: April 2013 
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: E-book
ISBN-13: 9780061950728
Source: Purchased by moi!




“Alma Mater” Participation Post: You are graduating today–list your accomplishments big and small for the week. Hop around and congratulate all of your friends on their accomplishments.

Woohoo! My first week-long readathon down. I definitely didn't throw myself into this one like I do for the Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon, but that would be impossible since I work an 8-5er. But it was still fun to have some extra incentive to read and some new blogs to peruse. 

I wish I'd gotten more read this week. I mad some headway on Owen Meany and I read The Glass Castle in full -- almost all of it on Saturday alone. Now I'm jumping into The Astronaut Wives Club.

Thanks to the hosts for a fun event!

24 comments:

  1. I learned about orphan trains when I read The Chaperone last year and then I asked my mom about them. I'm amazed that we treated children like that. I'm looking forward to this book.

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    1. Oh I know. It was quite an eye-opening read -- the novel and the supplemental stuff I read to go along with it. I hope you enjoy the book!

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  2. I read a children's book ten years ago (or more) that had its main character on the orphan trains. Wish I could remember the name of the book. It was a great, if short (seems like it was little more than a picture book) read.

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    1. If you think of the name of the book, let me know! Sounds like one I'd like to check out.

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  3. I didn't expect to enjoy Vivian's story as much as I did. The hook for me was the "aging out" of the system, since I spent three decades working in that system as a social worker.

    In the end, I engaged more with Vivian. I liked the connection that developed between her and Molly.

    Here's MY SUNDAY UPDATES/MAILBOX MONDAY POST

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    1. Ahh! I can see if you had that personal experience it would take on extra meaning for you. But yes, I definitely engaged more with Vivian. The events of her life were so vivid and so tragic.

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  4. I almost always like the historical narrative more as well. There's rarely an exception. Learning about orphan trains made me sad as can be, but it was completely fascinating as well.

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    1. Amen sista. I think we share a brain when it comes to some of this reading stuff. Definitely sad but fascinating.

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  5. I have been eyeing this book, but haven't got around to reading it. I am glad you liked it!

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    1. It was surprisingly good! I hope you can get around to it. :)

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  6. I remember watching a movie (perhaps a PBS production?) as a young person that was called Orphan Train - it was a story that has really stuck with me over the years. I am definitely hoping to get a chance to read this one.

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    1. Awesome! I wish I'd seen something like this earlier in life and just been more aware. Fascinating and so sad.

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  7. I read The Chaperone too which has the orphan train idea in it as well. While I was really interested in it, I don't think I was that shocked by (maybe not the right word, unfamiliar with?) it because I may have gotten the mistaken impression that Anne of Green Gables was on one? Maybe my childhood memories have just equated orphan + train = orphan train...

    And I'm kind of sick of all the dual narrative books out there. It seems all the general fiction has that trope. But I still might give this a try. Thanks for the review!

    PS CONGRATS on all the reading (and blogging)! Major accomplishment :)

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    1. Interesting! I didn't realize The Chaperone included any bits about the orphan trains. I'm a little more intrigued now.

      I think Marila went and picked Anne up in Anne of Green Gables? I'm thinking of the movie, so I don't know if the book was different. It's been entirely too long since I read them. And she was from Canada.

      YES, so sick of the dual narratives. So so sick of it. If you do try one, this is good though. lol

      Thanks, dahling!

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  8. I haven't heard of Orphan Train and it sounds like a great read! I need to add it to my TBR list. I've been dying to read the The Astronaut Wives Club since I first heard of it. I hope you enjoy it.

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    1. I finished Astronaut Wives Club yesterday. Read about 250 pages in a day. That says a lot! There were problems with it, but it was still engaging and I didn't want to put it down.

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  9. I wonder why authors continue to write the dual narrative when it seems like 99.9% of readers much prefer the historical sections? I just can't read any more them. They are like YA paranormal romances to me - unoriginal and formulaic.

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    1. It must sell easily. Maybe the publishing industry grabbed onto the idea and ran with it?

      And yes, I know what you mean. The formula is getting oooold.

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  10. I loved this one too...I had read The Chaperone as well and wanted to know more, so I did have a little foundation for the orphan trains that seem to have disappeared from our history books :( I don't mind a dual narrative, but I have noticed a lot of books lately are written in that format; it does get a little tiresome. I do totally enjoy the historical side more than the current side. :)

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  11. Reads like Orphan Train... I'm always thinking, "Why do I DO this to myself???" but I'm still drawn to learning about others' experiences and so, I continue to pick them up and read and read and read.

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    1. BUT, I still need to read Orphan Train!

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  12. I'm starting to feel like a lot of dual narrative stories (particularly when one story is in the past and the other in the present) will ultimately resort to having the modern characters act more as a catalyst for the older story than have them actually develop in their own right. I might be wrong, but it sounds as though you felt like Molly was mostly a tool for the story's punchline - if so, this definitely wouldn't be the first time I've encountered books that take advantage of that... is a trope yet? Whatever it is, it's starting to become annoyingly prevalent.

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  13. Congrats on the read-a-thon! I always want to participate in more of the blogosphere events, but it's hard! I have to just pick and choose at times, I guess! :) Maybe I'll get better as I blog for longer.


    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

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  14. You have me totally intrigued in the historical side, this is the first I hear about orphan trains!

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