Orphan Train

  • by Christina Baker Kline
  • Narrated by Jessica Almasy, Suzanne Toren
  • 8 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Orphan Train is a gripping story of friendship and second chances from Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be.
Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to "aging out" out of the foster care system. A community-service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse....
As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns 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. 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 unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

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What the Critics Say

“The narrator of Orphan Train, Jessica Almasy, does an incredible read. Listening to Almasy’s rendition of this book - so vivid and emotional - was as much fun as getting swept away by an Oscar-winning movie.” (Parents.com)
"Absorbing...a heartfelt page-turner about two women finding a sense of home.... Kline lets us live the characters’ experiences vividly through their skin.... The growth from instinct to conscious understanding to partnership between the two is the foundation for a moving tale." (Publishers Weekly)
“Kline's vibrant, sophisticated language comes alive with the sparkling talents of narrators Jessica Almasy and Suzanne Toren. Their finely paced, enthusiastic portrayals of the charming main characters quickly capture the listener.” (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Moving story of sharing and transformation.

This is a story of emotional, and at times, even physical survival. Two orphans, one who is now 91 and the other 17, cautiously reveal their life experiences to each other and find healing and transformation through the sharing. Each has been wounded by a series of cruel life events that have left them both feeling at times alone and vulnerable in life. Each has gone through childhood experiences that left them feeling at the mercy of others, not daring to trust that they could be loved just for being themselves.

91 year old Vivian was a young girl who was put on the train of orphans taken to be resettled in the Midwest just prior to the Great Depression. She must endure many harrowing events before finding any security in life. 17 year old Molly is in the foster care system and has frequently been victimized by her treatment in various homes. She goes to Vivian's house to help her as a condition of working off community service hours rather than go to "Juvie." In the beginning neither can imagine the transformation that will occur as they start going through Vivian's stored possessions, which both hold and evoke the memories of a life she has largely put behind her. Molly, who is at first a prickly, resentful teen, suspicious of anyone who seems to offer her a kindness is slow to warm to Vivian's genuine generosity. This is the story of two women, who on the surface could not be more different, finding the deepest sort of connection through their recognition of similar experiences.

This is a beautiful, touching book, filled with gripping emotional scenes that make it hard to put down. The writing is deeply evocative of the shifts of fortune each young girl is going through, and draws the reader right into the book. I almost felt I would know any of the characters if I were to meet them somewhere. Their courage is inspirational. More than this, though, this book forces the questions of how do we really care for and about those less fortunate? How often do we do things to salve own our conscience without deeply asking what is truly needed by others? This book raises all kinds of social questions about the role of the care and protection of children, and is, in one way, as unsettling at that level as it is heart-warming at another. The narrator is excellent, doing the voice of 91 year old Vivian or 17 year old Molly with equal ease. Such a wonderful listen. Highly recommend!
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- Kathi

Orphan Train - A Train to the Unknowable Fate

Orphan Train tells the story of children who are shipped from the east coast to the plains states to be adopted by new families during the 1930s. Some are very lucky to find a new life with loving parents, Too many others find a life of drudgery, poverty, and "involuntary servitude" as they are "adopted" to provide free labor during the tough economic times of the Great Depression.

This story centers around a 9-year-old Irish lass, Niamh ("neev") whose family emigrates from Ireland to find a better life in New York City. The reality of life in America is difficult for the family to accept, especially for Niamh's father. The stories they've heard about this abundant land in no way compare to the squalor in which they find themselves.Orphaned at age 9, Niamh is one of the hundreds of children who are sent to the Great Plains to be adopted out instead of being cared for by the local orphanages.

Niamh exhibits the amazing resilience of children everywhere who have no choice but to live in desperate situations. She is first adopted to provide free labor as a seamstress, where her name is changed to Dorothy, Niamh being "just too Irish and Catholic" to be an acceptable name.

Niamh is fortunate enough to experience a "normal" and ultimately very successful life once she is freed from a horrendous adoptive home. Niamh grows up, falls in love and marries just as World War II is beginning.

At the age of 91, Niamh (now named Vivian) tells her story in flashbacks to a rebellious and sullen abandoned teenager, Molly, who is helping her clean her attic as a condition of her probation. They form an unlikely friendship and bond. Molly helps Vivian come to grips with one of her greatest losses, and thereby helps her find joy she had been denying herself.

Very enjoyable listen, very well narrrated. The story ending is probably much happier than most of these ophaned children experienced, and just a bit too neat and tidy. The biggest negative is the stereotypical drunkard Irish father. A bit more imagination here would have been a better idea.
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- P. Burdge

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-02-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios