From 1854 to 1929, orphan trains ran regularly from the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest. It is estimated that more than two hundred thousand orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children were shipped west. Many of these children, often first-generation immigrants, ended up in adoption situations best described as ‘indentured servitude.’
Christina Baker Kline’s book on this period, Orphan Train, has over 2 million copies in print, and has spent over 90 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. This book is based on actual events—author Baker Kline follows the fictional path of one such train rider named Vivian in 1929 and intertwines the life experiences of Vivian with the current path of a foster child named Molly in 2011. The book explores the concepts of cultural identity and family while following Vivian from New York to Minnesota to modern day Maine.
“Orphan Train deals with many serious life issues—immigration, relocation, adoption, abuse, community, and the idea of what constitutes a family,” said Melanie R. Greene, Branch Manager of Norfolk Public Library’s Little Creek Branch. “The characters in the book are shown and give to others the ideal TREK for Civility traits—tolerance, respect, kindness, and empathy. We strive individually and as a community to be people that show more kindness, respect, and understanding of others.”
The book taps into deep themes relating to human nature.
“In contrast to the poignant narrative of the plight of so many of the homeless/abandoned children who boarded the ‘orphan trains,’ I found the unfolding of the special relationship between Molly and Vivian a wonderful affirmation of the best of human nature—the need for a true connection to others as we navigate life,” said Susan Mercer, Public Services Manager for NPL. “That these two women—separated in age by 74 years, could find common ground in their experience to forge such a deep bond of caring in real time gave me hope! In today’s current atmosphere of reliance on social media, one-size fits all responses, and anonymous interaction via the internet, I thought it was interesting that through this often impersonal media, Vivian was able to find the daughter she gave up for adoption many years ago and reclaim a missing piece of her life.”
“Orphan Train was a book that I did not want to end,” said Megan Kelly, Slover Library Librarian. “It was so good! I am looking forward to reading more books written by Ms. Kline in the future.”
Norfolk Public Library will be hosting an ALL-NPL Reads event featuring the book Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. NPL encourages all readers to join them for an evening with the author. Books will be available for purchase at the event. The program is FREE and open to the public. 1/19/2016 from 7 – 9 PM. Slover Library-Room 650. 235 E. Plume Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23502. For more info, click here and here.
For our school-age audience, please join us in reading “Train to Somewhere” by Eve Bunting. A special Storytime will be presented at Jordan-Newby Branch Library: January 20 @ 4 PM.