Orphan Train was voted as April’s book club choice. Although it was a quick read, it was an interesting historical story of orphan children being taken by Children’s Aid Society in New York, placed on trains and taken across the American Midwest to be ‘chosen’ at train stops – either to be adopted as part of families or taken in to work on farms or households. This is a part of history that the Children’s Aid Society should be ashamed of as the children were often placed in terrible situations with no investigation into the homes or follow up to ensure safety.
In present times, Molly is a foster child who has been in many different homes. She steals a library book and instead of going to ‘juvie’ ends up doing community service, cleaning up an elderly woman’s attic. As Molly goes through boxes, she learns that the old woman’s story is similar to her own which enables the two women to share their histories and become friends. The old woman’s story begins when her name was still Niamh, a girl who had emigrated from Ireland with her family. The family had been poor in Ireland and upon arriving in New York, the little family continued to struggle. After a tragic fire Niamh became orphaned and was shuttled across the midwest in search of a new home. During the train ride, she cared for an infant and made friends with a boy who made the trip less difficult.
Niamh ended up in several dreadful family situations before she found her family that cared for her which mirrors Molly’s experience in many different foster homes. As the two women share their stories, they both learn about their resilience and strength. Molly helps Vivian to learn about the internet and is able to search other orphans and find out what happened to family through new technology. This is a great, quick read and makes one want to learn a little more about the history of the orphan trains.