Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline..
The book parallels the lives of a wealthy elderly woman, Vivian, and Molly, a teenage foster child. It seems unlikely that the two would have anything in common, but when Molly must complete fifty hours of community service for stealing a book from the library an unexpected bond develops between the two women.
As it turns out, Vivian was one of thousands of children who road from New York City to the Midwest on orphan trains from 1824 through 1929. Through the author’s use of a dual narrative we gain insight into the similarities of the childhoods of children decades apart.
When the author writes, “It is a pitiful kind of childhood to know that no one loves you or is taking care of you.” She’s expressing a feeling both characters know too well.
Monday night our club gathered but instead of discussing the book, we invited a friend whose father and uncle rode an orphan train.
Our friend told a moving story of a five-year old who, after a station stop, was left to ride the train alone after a family chose his older brother but didn’t want him.
Riding to the very last station, the boy and all the other children still on the train went to live with a doctor and her husband in a small rural Nebraska town.
He lived there for two years and one day she told him they were going to see another family who had a horse for him. The doctor took him to the family that would eventually adopt him and left him there with no explaination.
Realizing the child’s musical talent, his new parents gave him lessons and demanded he practice. He became an accomplished musician, and as a young man during World War II became a member of General Patton’s band.
He married and eventually became a high school band director.
Our friend made a point of reading Orphan Train before coming to tell his father’s story, and he posed this question, “So is it just human nature to believe that things happen for a reason – to find some shred of meaning even in the worst experiences?” and followed it with this observation,
“My father was a man of faith and I believe he would say that the hand of God was in the whole experience from being orphaned in New York to being adopted in Nebraska. That being said, his experience left a mark so deep that he was unable to share it with us until four years before he died.”
Mother wrote in her journal, “The Lord watches over us in all the different places, and He will not allow even one trial that is too much for us.”
After reading Orphan Train, I did some research and found that many of the children went on to become public officials, bankers, lawyer, ministers and teachers, wives and husbands.
I choose to believe that He watched over them in all their different places and I pray He will continue to protect and guide all our children.