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  New York Times Review

Trust the tale, not the teller, D. H. Lawrence advised readers. But Kline doesn't trust her carefully researched and appalling story of 1920s orphans swept off the streets of New York and sent to the Midwest, where their foster families were subject to scant official supervision. To infuse her historical fiction with contemporary appeal, Kline has her protagonist, Niamh Power, an Irish immigrant who was just 9 when she lost her family in a tenement fire, look back on her life, at age 91, and tell her story to a 17-year-old Penobscot Indian, Molly Ayer, a ward of the state who suffers discrimination and mistreatment. Niamh's passage through three Minnesota families - the Byrnes, who exploit her; the Grotes, who abuse her; and the Nielsens, who are kind - is colloquial and engaging, but alternating chapters on Molly, the goth bad girl from Maine, are generic in characterization and crude in their parallels with Niamh.

  Library Journal Review

Kline's latest novel (after Bird in Hand) weaves contemporary and historical fiction into a compelling story about loss, adaptability, and courage. Molly is a rebellious 17-year-old foster child sentenced to community service for stealing a copy of Jane Eyre. She finds a position cleaning out the attic of Vivian, an elderly woman in their coastal Maine town. As Molly sorts through old trunks and boxes, Vivian begins to share stories from her past. Born in County Galway, she immigrated to New York City in 1929. When her family perished in a tenement fire, she was packed off on one of the many orphan trains intended to bring children to Midwestern families who would care for them. Each orphan's lot was largely dependent on the luck of the draw. In this, Vivian's life parallels Molly's, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. VERDICT With compassion and delicacy Kline presents a little-known chapter of American history and draws comparisons with the modern-day foster care system. Her accessible, interesting novel will appeal to readers who enjoy the work of Sara Donati. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/12.]-Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

A long journey from home and the struggle to find it again form the heart of the intertwined stories that make up this moving novel. Foster teen Molly is performing community-service work for elderly widow Vivian, and as they go through Vivian's cluttered attic, they discover that their lives have much in common. When Vivian was a girl, she was taken to a new life on an orphan train. These trains carried children to adoptive families for 75 years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the start of the Great Depression. Novelist Kline (Bird in Hand, 2009) brings Vivian's hardscrabble existence in ­Depression-era Minnesota to stunning life. Molly's present-day story in Maine seems to pale in comparison, but as we listen to the two characters talk, we find grace and power in both of these seemingly disparate lives. Although the girls are vulnerable, left to the whims of strangers, they show courage and resourcefulness. Kline illuminates a largely hidden chapter of American history, while portraying the coming-of-age of two resilient young women.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2010 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Kline (Bird in Hand, 2009, etc.) draws a dramatic, emotional story from a neglected corner of American history. Molly is a troubled teen, a foster child bounced from one unsuitable home to another. Vivian is a wealthy 91-year-old widow, settled in a Victorian mansion on the Maine seashore. But Vivian's story has much in common with Molly's. Vivian Daly, born Niamh Power, has gone "from cobblestoned village on the coast of Ireland to a tenement in New York to a train filled with children, steaming westward through farmland, to a lifetime in Minnesota." Vivian's journey west was aboard an "Orphan Train," a bit of misguided 1900s-era social engineering moving homeless, destitute city children, mostly immigrants, into Midwest families. Vivian's journey wasn't entirely happy. She was deposited with the Byrnes, who wanted only child labor in a dressmaking enterprise. Then, as the Great Depression began, Vivian was dumped into the Grote household, where she suffered neglect and abuse. Only after the intervention of a kind teacher did Vivian find a home with a decent, loving family. The story unfolds through chapters set in the present day, with Molly, caught in a minor theft, forced into community service work and agreeing to help Vivian clean an attic. Other chapters flash back to the period from 1929 through World War II. In those decades, Vivian travels West, endures the Byrnes and Grotes, finds a loving home with the Nielsens, reconnects with Dutchy, another orphan-train refugee, marries and is widowed when Dutchy dies in the war. Molly's life story unfolds in parallel--a neglected halfNative American child, whose father was an accident victim and whose mother drowned in drugs and crime--and Molly slowly opens up to Vivian. Kline does a superb job in connecting goth-girl Molly, emotionally damaged by the "toll [of] years of judgment and criticism," to Vivian, who sees her troubled childhood reflected in angry Molly. The realistic narrative follows characters as they change and grow, making a poignant revelation from Vivian entirely believable, as is Molly's response to Vivian's dark secret. A deeply emotional story drawn from the shadows.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
<p>Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?</p> <p>As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.</p> <p>Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.</p> <p>Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.</p>
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