Christina Baker Kline’s novel is a story that spans decades, starting in the Depression-era and moving into the present. From both timelines we find two orphaned girls in strangely similar circumstances. In the present day, Molly is a teenager who has bounced around foster homes and has to complete community service in an elderly woman’s home. That woman, Vivian, has her own story of becoming orphaned, resulting in a journey on the orphan train. The orphan train was something I had never known actually happened in the early to mid-twentieth century, where orphans would be transported across the United States and presented to people, mostly to be an extra set of hands for work.
Kline does a nice job weaving between the two timelines. Incorporating the orphan train into this novel did make it fascinating. For me, there were moments in the storyline that were predictable, contrived. It got close to being–dare I say it–Dickensian with some stock characters and horrible situations. In a way, it felt like a feel-good movie that was supposed to leave me all warm and fuzzy inside.