50 in 2013: Book Eight

Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was immediately drawn in by the extraordinary first words penned on the page before me:

“I believe in ghosts. They’re the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind. Many times in my life I have felt them around me, observing, witnessing, when no one in the living world knew or cared what happened. I am ninety-one years old, and almost everyone who was once in my life is now a ghost…I’ve come to think that’s what heaven is- a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.”

What followed was one of the most beautifully tragic stories of the strengths and courage that resides within the human spirit. A spirit that can survive insurmountable grief, loss, and adversity.

Between 1854 and 1929 it is believed that more than two hundred thousand children were transported on so-called “Orphan Trains”. Billed as a way to escape inevitable destitution and poverty, the train delivered the orphan children to various train stops where they were put up for “adoption”. Sadly, most ended up in situations where their services and servitude were more valuable than their well-being and happiness. This novel, explores the fictional storyline of one such passenger: Vivian Daly. At ninety-one, Vivian’s attic is overrun with boxes: various artifacts and pieces of her life. Fate places a troubled foster child on her doorstep. Seventeen year old, Molly Ayer has to fulfill community service hours after being caught stealing a book from the local library. Already on thin ice with her current foster family, her future hangs in a precariously unsteady balance.

A seemingly rich widow and obviously troubled foster teen appear on the surface to be complete strangers with not a single thing in common. However, as Molly begins her hours and Vivian uncovers long forgotten pieces of her past, the two women discover they are more alike than different. Both women have lived their lives alone. Family an unattainable mirage, destined for those around them but always out of their reach.

Despite lives deluged with sadness and pain, the two women courageously forge forward.

Somewhere amidst the dust and old boxes, Vivian’s words permeate Molly’s rough exterior. She comes to understand Vivian’s explanation and belief of ghosts…

“Molly begins to understand as she listens to the tapes, Vivian has come back to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments. They’re with us in the grocery store as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them through our soles.”

It turns out, that rich old lady who lives alone in that big old house, is not really alone at all.

One of the most beautifully written, heart wrenching, could-not-put-down books I have read in a long time. Absolutely LOVED!!


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