I read Orphan Train this past spring before it was nominated for a Lincoln Award, and I can see why it was chosen! Orphan Train is an adult novel that appeals to young adults, but unfortunately has not won an Alex Award. What is an Alex Award you may ask? It is an adult novel that appeals to teens, there are quite a few winners each year, but more on that later! Orphan Train is the story of two seemingly very different women that have quite a surprising connection…
This novel is told in the past and the present. It goes between two characters, Molly, a seventeen-year-old orphan, and Vivian, a woman in her nineties living on her own in a mansion. What these two do not know when they meet is that they come from very similar backgrounds, having both been a part of the foster system.
This book shows what the foster system was like when Vivian was a little girl in the 1920’s and 30’s, including orphan trains. I was not aware that orphan trains existed until I read this novel. They took kids that the orphanages were unable to find space for and took them across the country and stopped at different towns to attempt to find them a home.
Vivian’s story is very compelling and I kept turning the pages to find out what happened to her on the orphan train and where it took her. Especially how it led her to be living in this mansion in Maine. The description is fantastic and you feel as if you are living this with Vivian. Molly’s story, while interesting, did not appeal to me as much as Vivian’s, but I appreciated the symmetry that was put into the novel.
This is not a long read and once you get started you can’t put it down. It teaches not only young adults, but adults that may have not heard of the orphan trains, about a possibly questionable practice in our history. It is interesting to see the comparison between the foster system then and now. Orphan Train is a great historical fiction novel that makes you think and ask yourself the question “What would you do?”
For more information on the Alex Award I mentioned above, as well as listings of this year’s, and previous years’, winners, check out YALSA‘s page.