It’s definitely felt like spring these past few days, with warmer, sometimes tempestuous, weather. This morning is fairly calm and sunny, and the birds are singing up a storm, but I think we’re expecting some more rain this afternoon. I’ve got a steaming cup of chai (it’s never too warm for tea!) and a slice of freshly baked Date Bread on the table in front of me as I write this post, a wonderful Sunday morning ritual.
My volunteer book club met yesterday to discuss Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This novel tells the parallel stories of Molly and Vivian, two women who seem to be polar opposites: Molly is a rebellious seventeen-year-old who has been through a number of foster homes in the past nine years, and her current home is not much better than the others. Vivian is a ninety-one-year-old widow who seems to have lived a rich and full life with her husband until his death, and now lives a quiet, if somewhat reclusive, existence. After an incident at the public library, Molly is forced to put in fifty hours of community service, and Vivian’s housekeeper suggests that she spend that time cleaning out Vivian’s attic. Cleaning out a rich lady’s attic is not exactly an exciting prospect, but she reluctantly agrees. What she finds, however, is anything but boring. Instead she discovers that, as an Irish immigrant, Vivian was part of the thousands of orphan children who, between the 1850s and the 1920s, were gathered up and sent on trains to various towns and cities in the hopes that they would be placed in loving homes, but the reality for many was anything but loving; they were often placed in abusive environments and made to work on farms or in households and were considered little more than cheap labour. Through their time together, Molly and Vivian discover that they are, in fact, very much alike, and they form a bond that may be stronger than any family connection. I knew nothing about this book, but thankfully it was a success - everyone seemed to love it! None of us knew anything about this train, and we thought of other instances in history where children were taken from homes and relocated. One member mentioned residential schools, and another mentioned Dr Barnardo’s Home Children. We talked about the idea of “family”, and how it applied to the various characters in the novel. We talked about the plot twist near the end of the book, and what it meant to the character who made the decision. One member said that the novel was an emotional roller coaster: something positive happened, followed by something negative, then positive, then negative, and so on, and so on… Another member said she would have been happy if the story went on for another hundred pages, she enjoyed the book so much. I mentioned that I wished there was more of Molly’s story, but the others suggested that it was Vivian’s story, not Molly’s. One member pointed out that Vivian’s chapters are written in the first person, while Molly’s are in the third person, which supports this idea, and was something I hadn’t noticed. All in all, it was an awesome discussion, and I would recommend this novel if you are looking for a good book club selection.
Time to get outside before the rain!Bye for now…