Between 1853 and 1929, thousands of orphans were taken from big cities and given to families in less-populated parts of the country. The thinking was that being raised in an institutional setting or on the streets was bad for children, so they were put on trains and given to any “hard-working and God-fearing” family that would take them. Infants were often chosen to be integrated as part of new families and older boys were chosen to work. Older girls were the last chosen. Niamh was one such girl.
Orphan Train follows the story of two orphans: Niamh and Molly. Niamh is an Irish orphan who becomes a train rider and Molly is a teen in the foster system who meets an aged Niamh while completing community service in her home. As Niamh’s (a.k.a. Vivian’s) story unfolds, Molly learns they have much more in common than she realized.
Orphan Train sheds light on a forgotten time in American history. The book is inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. Kline turned a story that could be depressing into one that is ultimately uplifting and shows the resiliency of the human spirit.
Rated: Moderate. There are a handful of swear words throughout the book, and a scene where Niamh’s foster father attempts to rape her. The scene is not too detailed but is important to the story since it leads to her leaving and being placed elsewhere.