Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline


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     When this book was announced as our selection another lady and I both felt like we had heard of the book and were excited to read it.  Now that I've read it, I'm glad I did.  It is a little piece of U.S. History (that ran for 75 years!) that I now know more about.  The story is told by two voices and in two time periods.  Usually with a book such as this, I find a preference for one time or one voice.  With this book though, I enjoyed it all.  After I completed the story I read an interview with the author at the end of the book and she stated she had tried very hard to avoid that feeling of preferring one over another.  I'd say she succeeded!

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex:  4

Religion:  3

Gruesome:  2

Suspense:  4

Morality:  3

Sex - Molly and Jack in the car (p. 86).  Mention of a lady's exposed "fur between her legs" (p. 144).  Most of the sex references are minor but I gave this category an extra point because there is a molestation on pages 149-151 and I feel like this is something very weighty that could be upsetting to some people, especially in ways that you may not be aware of.

Religion - Only one family is openly religious.  Most everybody tries to be a good person, although, as happens with humans, sometimes their natural selfishness gets in the way.  Religion was really neither here nor there in this story.

Gruesome - The squalor of the poor is about as gruesome as this book gets.

Suspense - I found myself wondering about several key plot points towards the end of the book and it spurred my reading a bit because I was anxious to see how things turned out.

Morality - Molly is promiscuous and admits to past sexual encounters.


Discussion Questions

Vivian believes in friendly ghosts of her loved ones.  Do you?  (ref. Prologue)

Molly thinks "tough and weird is preferable to pathetic and vulnerable" (p. 4).  Do you?

When Dutchy and Niamh promised to find each other, did you think they would?  How?

Talk about your own personal portages (p. 131).

Niamh's dad told her to envision her perfect day to distract her from misery (p. 141).  What similar tricks do you do?

Some people were kind to Dorothy because they were also Irish.  Does this kind of national kinship loyalty still exist today?

Name "the most desirable shade of lipstick" and your "favorite brands of face powder"?  (p. 181)

Can you string random moments of chance into a chain of fate as Vivian did on p. 235 and Molly on p. 272?

What do you think the future held for Molly?

Christina Baker Kline tried hard to make all story lines (3) equally interesting.  Did she succeed or did you have a favorite time or character?

Theme Ideas

Collect books and donate to an orphanage.  Some of the specific titles mentioned in this book are:
  • The Virgin Suicides (p. 5)
  • Catcher in the Rye (p. 5)
  • The Bell Jar (p. 5)
  • Jane Eyre (p. 6)
  • The Bible (p. 33)
  • poetry books (p. 34)
  • Ann of Green Gables (p. 83)
  • Oliver Twist (p. 265)
  • David Copperfield (p. 265)
Decorate with turtle theme decor (p. 87).

Serve currant bread (p. 126) or Irish food.  Serve a vegetarian meal in honor of Molly.

Decorate with crocuses like Molly planted with her mother (p. 132).

Serve roasted goose and rhubarb tart (p. 141).

Serve black tea and currant bread (p. 142).

Molly noted that Vivian's stories were "As if joining scraps of fabric to make a quilt." (p. 170)  Make a quilt for an orphan.  (Our next book selection is The Invention of Wings which also ties in to quilting so this could be a two month project if you read these books successively.)

Host a clothing drive for an orphanage.

Serve scones (p. 181).

Use pink napkins (p. 183).

Give your guests bookmarks with the claddagh cross. 


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