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