When Molly, a troubled teen who has spent her life in the foster system, steals a book and is forced to make up for it by helping an old woman clean out her attic (yeah, that makes sense), she has no idea the ways in which it will affect her life. Vivian shares with Molly tales of her heartbreaking childhood, and through these stories, a great friendship is formed.
The book switches back and forth between present-day and the 1920s – 40s, which covers Vivian’s experience as an orphaned Irish immigrant. Vivian’s story was very interesting, but Molly’s left a lot to be desired. Just as you’re sucked into the most exciting parts of the past, you’re shoved back into the story of how Molly is dealing with her stereotypically terrible foster parents. The difference is so great, it’s as if Orphan Train was written by two different people – one who can write engaging historical fiction and another who is only capable of writing uninteresting fluff.
But even Vivian’s story had some major flaws. The most glaring is a big decision Vivian makes during her early adult years. Her childhood is illustrated well, but when she becomes an adult, the story’s pace unfortunately quickens and it feels as if she is a different person. I don’t want to spoil anything by detailing Vivian’s decision, but I felt like I’d come to know and understand her and then she did something I thought was so out of character, it kind of threw me for a loop. A bad loop, not a fun loop.
The book is worth a read if you are a big fan of historical fiction or you have great interest in the trains that carried orphaned children to new homes where they were often mistreated. Otherwise, your time is best spent reading something else.