May 4, 2015

Orphan Train: That Which Left My Heart Crumbled Into a Thousand Little Pieces on the Floor

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.
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.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

Oh, Orphan Train. How you have left me in a fit of tears. Why, why would you do this to me? Don't I at least deserve that answer after all the pain you've caused me?

As you can see, this book was quite the emotional roller coaster. No, it's not one of those super action-packed books with incredible plot twists around every corner. It's a more emotional read that details a journey. There are incredibly tough situations explored in this book that Christina Baker Kline tackles extremely well. But just a warning: There are some things that happen in this book that are not for the light of heart. Vivian goes through some really trying times. Just a forewarning. 

Now, onwards with my two lists!

What I Liked:

  • The writing style is absolutely phenomenal! It's so mature and graceful and elegant, and it fits the tone of the book so well. I just adore it so much!
  • There were two settings that this book flipped between- the historical told from Vivian's point of view, and the modern day told from Molly's point of view. Now, I definitely liked the historical better, but I kind of think that was purposeful. The main plot did take place in the historical side of things. However, that said, I never was trudging through one of the setting's chapters just to move on to the other story-line. There was a really nice balance between the two, in my opinion.
  • In the historical story-line, much of it is told from a young Vivian's point of view. The last quarter or so of the story, however, is told from an adult Vivian's point of view. I was not expecting to like this transition. Usually, when characters go through such large age jumps in one book, I find myself stuck in the original age, and can't picture them as the new age. However, Christina Baker Kline made this transition go really smoothly. I was completely surprised and impressed. 
  • As a teenager and young adult, Vivian is more innocent than the girls around her. Portraying this innocence in a character can easily make the character sound immature. However, I never found this to be the case with Vivian. She was actually rather mature- just innocent, and that's a good thing. :-)
What I Didn't Like:

  • Honestly, this isn't really a dislike, but it's the only thing that I can really put my finger on that is in any way semi-negative. The ending was a teensy-tiny bit rushed. I would have liked to have spent at least a little more time with the events that took place in the ending, but it was alright. I also am not fully-satisfied with the resolution of the romantic subplot. Still, I don't dislike it. 
  • Also, I saw a direct connection in the resolution of Molly's character arc and things she had spoken with Vivian about. I wish Kline would have referenced this directly in the resolution of her character arc. To me, it would have brought the whole thing around full circle even better. But that's kind of nit-picking. :P
Overall, I absolutely adored this book, and I would totally recommend it. I would give it a solid 4.5 stars, because I really enjoyed it, but at the same time, it wasn't perfect. 

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