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Book Club: Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

By Margaret Manning March 21, 2014 Mindset

Orphan Train” is a fascinating story of friendship between women from two generations. According to a New York Times review, the book is “A revelation of the universal yearning for belonging, for family, for acceptance and, ultimately, the journeys we must all make to find them.”

The book looks at the lives of two women. Molly is a troubled young foster child, living in present day New England. She lives with a family that does not want her to be in their lives. The second woman, Vivian, has also lived a troubled life. As a child, a fire killed her family and left her an orphan, alone in New York City.

Then in 1929, she was sent west on the Orphan Train. This was a real train, used in the United States for 75 years up to the Great Depression to find young immigrant orphans new homes. Their lives were often very difficult and Vivian had many secrets to share.

Later, in 2001, 17-year-old Molly is performing community-service work for 91 year old Vivian. Her difficult past unfolds as they go through her cluttered attic. As they talk, they realize that they have much in common. Molly is sceptical at first but soon realizes she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her.

At the same time, Vivian’s answers provide a kind of release for Molly. They both hid their pasts, encountered difficulties and learned to be resourceful.  Through this process, Molly starts to see all the shattered pieces of her life for what they are – puzzle pieces on her journey to becoming a woman.

I chose this book for the Sixty and Me Book Club because it describes the value and importance of a dialog between older and younger women. By sharing life experiences, we gain a better understanding of ourselves and others. The response to our article “60 Things that Older Women Want Younger Women to Know” revealed that young women really do appreciate advice from older women.

I hope you enjoy reading “Orphan Train”. Perhaps it will motivate you to reach out to a younger woman you know who may enjoy sharing in your wisdom and life experiences.

If you don’t already have a copy of “Orphan Train”, you can get it on Amazon.

To kick things off, here are a few questions. Please add your thoughts in the comments:

How did you experience the book? Did you think the characters Vivian and Molly were well realistic and authentic?

Is the plot engaging — does it tell a good story?

Was there a particular conversation between Molly and Vivian that really struck you as significant?

Is the ending what you expected? Some people have said it is the perfect ending – do you agree?

Do you know a young woman in your life who reminds you of yourself as a teenager? Why?

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask?

Do you see your life as a series of puzzle pieces? How many are still missing?

I hope that you enjoy this book! Please share your thoughts below.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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