It started in the 1850s when thousands of orphaned and abandoned children roamed the streets of New York City as a means of offering them a better life. Trains full of children were sent by the newly founded Children's Aid Society to areas out in the country as far as Arkansas, Minnesota, and states west to find couples and families who would take them in and raise them as their own. Some children fared well. Others were chosen because they could work the farms much as an indentured servant might. Known as the Orphan Trains, it became quite controversial but still was a way to get the children, many who were very young, off the streets and into places where they would hopefully get a better start in life.
It is with this backdrop that Christina Baker Kline has written her novel, Orphan Train. Here's the back cover blurb:
Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse...
As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.
It is a touching tale and fascinating look at this snippet of history. A great book for the road--or the train.