Orphan Train is the book club selection for January. We meet next
Tuesday night—come and discuss the book with us! I had heard . . .
lots of good things about the book and was anxious to read it. It’s
based on the true story of orphan trains that used to run in America–from
1854 to 1929. They carried children, orphans, from the streets of eastern
cities to the Midwest where they were chosen by farm families, usually, to
help with the work, or help with children. Over two hundred thousand
children were in the program! It was run by the Children’s Aid Society–and
emphasized finding good Christian homes for the boys and girls.
Babies and growing boys were the first to be chosen and sometimes the other
children were not chosen and had to get back on the train to try another
The author used this interesting part of American history as the basis of story. The crux of the story is the relationship of a seventeen year old orphan
–foster child in today’s world and the unlikely friendship she forms with a 91 year old woman who had been part of that orphan train system in 1929.
Good plotting. Almost succeeds.
I began to balk when the author tried too hard to persuade me that one of
the little children was Irish–too much emphasis given. Sentiment about
Galway Bay–dear Mam–“Jesus, Mary and Joseph” expletives.
And then the lectures about the history of places the train was going through-
-it just seemed like extra add-ons and didn’t fit easily into the thread of the
story. A mention would be fine–we don’t need the whole chapter.
But the language was the worst. Trite and predictable words and phrases
were used, sometimes over and over. I thought it might be a debut novel with
poor editing, but no, the author has other novels.
page 32–“spongy”—ground to the outhouse; Carmine’s diaper; somebody’s skin
page 81–“spidery” “veins” —
page 100 –Fanny has veined hand
page 101–spongy ground again
page 114–spidery cracks
page 138–Vivian, frail veined hands
page 196–spidery script on a hinged box
Still, the book moves along–can’t deny it. And occasionally the reader
stops to think about what it might have been like. All that constant moving
because so often a new home wouldn’t work out must take a toll on a kid.
“What do you carry with you?
What do you leave behind?”
I wish the book had been a little better, but everything was so predictable
there wasn’t much fascination or imagination left for the reader.
P.S. Book club met and generally liked the book–I was unpopular with my
nitpicking editing remarks I think—yet we had a good discussion. I’d have
to recommend it for a book club read. 😉
Two button review:
The book for February is David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. It studies how we react to obstacles and misfortunes in our lives.