Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Niamh is an Irish immigrant whose family all perishes in NYC, so she’s sent west on an Orphan Train. She has various miserable placements but comes out all right. The story of her youth is juxtaposed with a modern-day story where the 91-year-old Niamh, now Vivian, connects with a troubled teenager.
This is a lightweight story where the characters are either Good or Evil, and you see everything coming from a mile away. Except one thing – although you knew that Niamh would reunite eventually with Dutchy, a boy she met on the train going west, I did NOT expect her to literally go to bed with him within hours of their reunion. I mean, I thought they’d go for a drink or something.
The story of Niamh’s loss after loss culminates with the biggest loss of all: she has a baby and gives it up for adoption. This lets the book end with a mother-child-grandchild reunion where everyone is wonderful and looks like each other. Swelling violins, please.
I read this because it was a gift from my step-mother-in-law. I kept reading it because I did want to follow the Niamh story. As always tends to happen with books that interweave two very different stories, however, there’s always one I like better; and hence the other one keeps cropping up as a mere annoyance. Old Lady Vivian of course is attached to all her old keepsakes and of course she and troubled Molly eventually achieve a deep bond. I didn’t care, I wanted to see how the orphan turned out.
PS I think it’s time for some more Jane Austen.
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