Tag Archives: Orphan Train


This book continues on best seller lists and is a favorite of book clubs. Occasionally I repost a piece that appeared earlier on this blog. This brief review appeared on the reading page in January, 2014. A book club I know is reading it this week so if you missed it, here’s the repost.



Orphan Train: A Novel
Author: Christina Baker Kline
Publisher: Morrow, 2013
Genre: Fiction
Source: personal copy

I bought a lovely paperback edition of this book at Malaprop’s Book Store in Ashville. The deckled edges and easy-to-read print made both beauty and functionality. A Short History of the Real Orphan Trains and a Reading Group Guide appear after the text of the novel.

The story of a child of the orphan trains, who is taken from New York to Minnesota in 1929, and a modern day orphan in Maine fit together like two parts of the same puzzle. But these two lives and their stories are separate. Both grip the reader. The author balances the two stories well. There are lessons in second chances, cross-generational friendship and learning to live well. Most readers will be so caught up in the story, they will not feel like it teaches lessons. But events in the narrative may well cause the reader to stop and think about living and more. How much have times and conditions changed from 1929 to the present?

Here are two more questions to think about as you read this book. How does the seventeen-year-old Molly impact the life of ninety-year-old Vivian? Vivian’s claddagh cross is with her throughout her story. What is its role? How does it contribute?

As I read this book, I found myself thinking differently about the meaning of the word ghost. I wonder if you will feel that way too.

The narrative holds the reader, reels you in and you are on the line until the last page. I absolutely recommend it to others. Thank you to the friend that recommended it to me. It deserves its continuing place on the best seller list.

Please share your thoughts on this novel.




This week is the first meeting of the Summerhouse Winter Book Club. The season begins with a discussion of Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood, a novel published a few years ago. It’s worth knowing about if you missed it.

This post was prompted by a reader’s comment. Many of us like to know what book clubs other than our own are reading. So, here’s rundown of the Summerhouse List for 2015. This time I share a professional summary or book blurb rather than one I wrote. This will give readers a different look at a book from what I previously posted on this blog about the book. Hope this gives you some ideas for your book club or your own reading.

Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood
From the back cover of the paperback edition. “After surviving a near-fatal accident, thirty-year-old Lizzy Mitchell faces a long road to recovery. She remembers little about the days she spent in and out of consciousness, save for one thing: She saw her beloved deceased uncle, Father Mike, the man who raised her in the rectory of his Maine church until she was nine, at which time she was abruptly sent away to boarding school.”

Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
From the back cover of the paperback edition. “A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, The Invention of Wings is a vivid evocation of the American deep South in the nineteenth century and the story of an impossible friendship against all odds.”

The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
From BookPage. “A spirited sales rep and an abandoned baby bring hope to a widowed bookseller in this emotional story that is also a tribute to the power of books.”

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
From Goodreads. “Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart.”

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
From Amazon. “Orphan Train is a gripping story of friendship and second chances from Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be.”

Your book club has perhaps read some of these books. Do share ideas from your book discussions. I’m sure blog readers would like to hear about the book list of your book club. Click on “Leave a Reply” and let us know.



What factors lead to successful Book Club Reads? Book clubs are made up of individual readers; so as we might expect, choices can be personal and passionate. Are there common denominators that make for successful book club choices? Discussion and deeper understandings are goals for most clubs. Does the book offer the possibility of varied viewpoints? Are there points to discuss? Seems to me there are always aspects of character, plot, writing, ideas, you name it, to be discussed. When experienced readers get together it’s likely varied viewpoints will attend the meeting.

Broad appeal and availability are usually considered important. These days with electronic readers becoming more and more popular, access to particular books is less of an issue. Members usually consider a book more successful for their group if the majority of the members find it interesting and enjoyable. If too many hate it, not a good choice.

Is the book well-written? Is there interesting structure? What of clearly and beautifully written sentences? What do you think adds up to a successful book club choice?

Whether you personally are looking for a good read, or your book club is making decisions, I offer the recent choices of two book clubs for your consideration.


Any Bitter Thing. Monica Wood.
Here are characters who struggle with heartbreak and loss. Different voices create a moving experience for the reader. A profile of Monica Wood was posted on the Writing page of this blog on July 10, 2014 under the title “Meet Monica Wood.”


Annie’s Ghost. Steve Luxenberg. Non-fiction.
Chosen as a notable Michigan book for 2010. Memoir, mystery, history. A story of searching family secrets and family heartbreak at Eloise Hospital, a bygone psychiatric facility in Wayne, MI.


Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.
This historical novel tells the story of a woman who accompanies the young Louise Brooks to NYC in the 1920’s and the changes that await them. Readers I’ve talked to are enthusiastic about this book and this author.

The Invention of Wings. Sue Monk Kidd. Unknown-3
This novel has been on the NYT Best Sellers List for a number of weeks. It is about the relationship between a wealthy girl who will become a prominent abolitionist and the slave who is a gift to her on her eleventh birthday. Those who have read this book liked it very much.


Necessary Lies. Diane Chamberlain.
A young social worker defies conventional thinking in 1960’s North Carolina. Ms. Chamberlain is a popular author with many novels to her credit. To my surprise, this story and its characters have stayed with me.


Orphan Train. Christina Baker Kline.
This novel can be placed on the shelf titled: Made Popular By Its Readers. It tells the story of the past and present of an orphan taken from the streets of New York and transported west to a new home in the 1920s.


The Secret of Raven Point. Jennifer Vanderbees.
Book review available on this blog under the title, “Mystery, History, Romance” posted on Aug. 4, 2014


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Gabrielle Zevin. Novel.
This story is set in a bookstore. I recently heard from a reader who loved this book. See “Five Things to Like about The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry” posted on this blog on June 4, 2014.


Molokai. O. A. Bushnell.
This is a work of fiction based on the history of a leper colony in Hawaii during the late nineteenth century. Not a new book and an unexpected pick, perhaps. We shall see if book club readers like this one.

Do let us know if you would recommend one of these for your book club? Everyone likes to hear ideas on book picks.