Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline, William Morrow, 2013, 273 pp
When this novel was published about a year ago, I knew there was no way I wasn't going to read it. I have some kind of fracture in my psyche where I mourn and pine for children who become orphaned for any reason.
No such trauma happened to me. I was a wanted and loved child and raised by well-meaning, competent and loving parents. However, for some reason, I habitually wondered if I had been adopted and was going to be told when I got "old enough."
I have been working off and on over many years on a novel about a foster mom and have done some research myself on the history of orphanages, foster care, and adoption, including the orphan train phenomenon. All I will say is the entire subject is fraught with as much abuse as it is with good intentions.
Christina Baker Kline did plenty of research and created a fine story bracketed by the orphan train era (1854 to 1929) and the current foster care program in this country. One of her characters was an orphan train rider of Irish descent whose life turned out well despite much suffering, loss, and abuse in childhood. The novel's drama is built on the connection between this woman and a modern day fostered teen about to age out of the system.
Together these two, almost unwittingly, enable each other to heal and come to understandings about their lives. Though the architecture of the story is a bit too obviously contrived and the writing somewhat lighter than the topic demands, I did my share of weeping as I read. I have to credit the author for that.
(Orphan Train is available in paperback on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore. It is also available as an eBook by order.)