from my bookshelf: orphan train by christina baker kline


“orphan trains” traveled from the east coast to the midwest from 1854-1929, transporting thousands of parentless children to new families. orphan train has two story lines: one following the life of molly, a teenage girl living in foster care in maine, and another about a now elderly woman, vivian, who was placed on the orphan trains and matched with several different families throughout her childhood. their stories collide when molly is asked to complete community service hours by cleaning out vivian’s attic. their stories took place decades apart, but molly and vivian’s common desire to find a sense of family and belonging makes them fast friends. orphan train reflects the importance storytelling and history in order to better understand, and survive in, modern times.


“Stripped of family and identity, fed meager rations, consigned to hard wooden seats until we are to be, as Slobbery Jack suggested, sold into slavery–our mere existence is punishment enough.”

“We are headed to the unknown, and we have no choice but to sit quietly in our hard seats and let ourselves be taken there.”

“How strange, I think–that I am in a place my parents have never been and will never be. How strange that I am here and they are gone.”

“It’s always a shock to the system to reenter it; just to read a chapter she finds she has to slow down her breathing and go into a trance, like a hibernating bear.”

“But in a way I’m glad to have a new identity. It makes it easier to let go of so much else.”

“Like an abandoned foal that nestles against cows in the barnyard, maybe I just need to feel the warmth of belonging.”

“…the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments.”

“I like the assumption that everyone is trying his best, and we should all just be kind to each other.”

“The things that matter stay with you, seep into your skin.”

“Mingling in this wide swath of stranger shifts my attention from myself, that tedious subject, to the world around me.”

“It is marvelous to be young on a big-city street.”

“My entire life has felt like chance. Random moments of loss and connection. this is the first one that feels, instead, like fate.”