Overall Opinion and Thoughts about Orphan Train

Discuss the July 2016 Book of the Month, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

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Overall Opinion and Thoughts about Orphan Train

Post by Scott » 01 Jul 2016, 11:28

Do not read this topic unless you have read the July 2016 Book of the Month, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, because this topic may contain spoilers.

What is your overall opinion of Orphan Train? Would you recommend others read it? Why or why not?

Please submit your actual rating of it using the Bookshelves page for Orphan Train.
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Post by e-tasana-williams » 01 Jul 2016, 18:34

I experienced this title as an audiobook, and I loved it! Both the story and the narration were high quality. The story itself grabbed my attention from the start, even though I couldn't tell which way the author was going with it at first. I love how Vivian (Niamh) did not fit into the stereotype image of a well-to-do elderly widow from the Midwest. The relationship between her and Molly was heartwarming, and was almost my favorite part of the book, second only to Vivian's life story.

I recommend others read/listen to this book. First, it introduced to me a part of American history with which I was unfamiliar. Second, the author's writing style flowed well between present and past. I never felt lost in the story or weary of the flashbacks. Third, the actors narrating the audiobook were superb. Never were the voices of different characters confused, or the narration unbearable. These two women did their homework, and read the novel as though they were performing it on stage or in a film. It was that engrossing. I've listened to many other audio books where the narrator stumbled over unfamiliar words, mixed up the voices of the characters, and/or made the listening otherwise difficult. Kudos to the author and the narrators!
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Post by Gravy » 01 Jul 2016, 19:17

I enjoyed the characters and story, but felt that the characters would have both had more repercussions given what they went through.
It just felt a little too clean cut for me.
I rated it a three, and am still glad to have read it.
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Post by gali » 01 Jul 2016, 22:56

I loved the book and found it very touching. I loved the way the author weaved the two stories together. I didn't know about the Orphan Trains before this book and was shocked by it. I especially liked the story of Molly, which tugged at my heartstrings. I rated the book 4 mainly because of it. I thought the comparison between the Molly and Vivian was aptly done, and found the book riveting from beginning to end. I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it.
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Post by e-tasana-williams » 01 Jul 2016, 23:47

gali wrote: I didn't know about the Orphan Trains before this book and was shocked by it...
That was my reaction, too! I'd never heard of these, but looked up the history and learned more about them. Even with all of Vivian's traumatic experiences in the book, I can imagine that many of the outcomes of these orphans were far worse than hers was.

-- July 1st, 2016, 10:54 pm --
Gravy wrote:I enjoyed the characters and story, but felt that the characters would have both had more repercussions given what they went through.
It just felt a little too clean cut for me.
I rated it a three, and am still glad to have read it.
The ends were tied up pretty neatly, weren't they? Perhaps knowing real-life outcomes of some of the orphans, the author wanted to share a story in which two orphans found a happy life with meaningful relationships...historical fiction rather than non-fiction?
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Post by Gravy » 02 Jul 2016, 00:05

I just wish it had felt slightly more realistic.
Though, I would highly recommend it (it was a very good book) I just couldn't believe that either of them would've been as stable as they were. People don't just spontaneously heal.

The one nod toward this, which I really appreciated, was Vivian's feelings about finding her daughter.
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Post by bookowlie » 02 Jul 2016, 08:38

I read this book over a year ago for a book club. I recommend it for several reasons: 1) I learned so much about the Orphan Trains, something I knew nothing about in history; 2) The story got me more interested in reading historical fiction; and 3) it's just a darn good story.

Niamh/Dorothy/Vivian's life living with the different families was vivid and heartbreaking. The first family not allowing her to eat the food from the refrigerator and making her use the outhouse - I felt like crying. Of course, Mr. Grote's (the second foster family) attempted rape was horrifying to read. I was so overwhelmed by the descriptions of the orphan kids being made to work like slaves. The boys had it worse than the girls,with harder physical labor. I imagine the true stories from those days are even worse than what was written in this book.

What I liked best was Vivian's story in flashback. I always thought of rural Midwesterners in history as a stereotype of nice, hard-working farmers who sit around baking pies for the neighbors. It was shocked to read about how these children from the big cities were shipped off alone to become slaves for families.

I didn't care for the present day story with Molly as much. It just seemed like a convenient plot device to tell Vivian's story. Also, Vivian bumping into Dutchy at a later point seemed too neatly tied up, as well as a few minor plot points.
3 out of 4 stars (really 3 1/2)
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Post by Lulubelle » 02 Jul 2016, 14:06

I enjoyed this book very much. It was an easy engaging read, and I must admit I cried at the end when Vivian sees her granddaughter's red hair.

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Post by e-tasana-williams » 02 Jul 2016, 23:36

Lulubelle wrote:I enjoyed this book very much. It was an easy engaging read, and I must admit I cried at the end when Vivian sees her granddaughter's red hair.
I loved that part as well...and I didn't want the story to end there! I wanted to hear about the reconciliation, and learn about Molly's outcome as well. Alas, the author had to conclude the story at some point. :roll:
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Post by bookowlie » 03 Jul 2016, 12:03

I also liked that part because Vivian became rootless over the years. She was shuttled off to so many families that she lost a sense of who she was. It certainly didn't help that her name was changed so many times.
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Post by ashley_claire » 04 Jul 2016, 09:40

This book was a 3 star read for me. I've heard about this book for awhile and went into it looking forward to some emotional gut punches. When it didn't evoke all the feels in me like I wanted it to, I was left underwhelmed. I liked the story but think it was a bit overhyped for my personal taste. I agree that part of the problem was due to some issues being wrapped up a little too neatly.

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Post by CatInTheHat » 05 Jul 2016, 11:45

I was already familiar with the actual orphan trains. I was pleased with the accuracy of the historical facts in the story. Often, those get mucked up. Both of the main characters, Vivian and Molly, felt very real to me. There were so many tear jerking moments in the story. I couldn't put it down, which is always a good sign of a good book!
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Post by e-tasana-williams » 05 Jul 2016, 16:23

ashley_claire wrote:This book was a 3 star read for me. I've heard about this book for awhile and went into it looking forward to some emotional gut punches. When it didn't evoke all the feels in me like I wanted it to, I was left underwhelmed. I liked the story but think it was a bit overhyped for my personal taste. I agree that part of the problem was due to some issues being wrapped up a little too neatly.
I agree with you, in that the book did not go into gory details that most assuredly were part of life for most of the orphans. Not having heard anything about the book prior to listening to it, I did not get that same "underwhelmed" feeling. It does seem that the reunion between Vivian and the daughter she gave away was too easily initiated. That's part of the reason I would have liked to read about what actually happened after the daughter's arrival...what was her life like? Did she always want to meet Vivian? Had she agreed to the meeting just to ask questions and give her a "my life was perfectly fine without you, thank you very much"? Like I said, I didn't want this story to end where it did.
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Post by katiesquilts » 05 Jul 2016, 21:28

I had a weird sense of deva ju while reading Orphan Train. There's a YA novel (read it over a decade ago, so it'd be ridiculously hard to track it down) that is very similar to the 2011 sections of the novel. Girl in foster care who uses make-up to stand out from the crowd, gets in trouble over a silly mistake, has to do community service and through that experience learns a little more about herself...

I think that's why I enjoyed the flashbacks more. The narrative was more interesting, so it was easier to get sucked into it. I also agree with @ashley_claire that the ending was a little underwhelming, but I would still give it at least 3 stars.

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Post by bookowlie » 06 Jul 2016, 00:23

Eatsleaves wrote:
ashley_claire wrote:This book was a 3 star read for me. I've heard about this book for awhile and went into it looking forward to some emotional gut punches. When it didn't evoke all the feels in me like I wanted it to, I was left underwhelmed. I liked the story but think it was a bit overhyped for my personal taste. I agree that part of the problem was due to some issues being wrapped up a little too neatly.
I agree with you, in that the book did not go into gory details that most assuredly were part of life for most of the orphans. Not having heard anything about the book prior to listening to it, I did not get that same "underwhelmed" feeling. It does seem that the reunion between Vivian and the daughter she gave away was too easily initiated. That's part of the reason I would have liked to read about what actually happened after the daughter's arrival...what was her life like? Did she always want to meet Vivian? Had she agreed to the meeting just to ask questions and give her a "my life was perfectly fine without you, thank you very much"? Like I said, I didn't want this story to end where it did.
Well said. The mother-daughter reunion at the end just seemed too contrived. I liked their meeting after so many years, but it just seemed like a quick way to tie things up in a bow at the end. It was one of these books that i felt could have been really wonderful in the hands of a different writer. It was still a very good book...just not great.
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