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One Book One County – Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

February 19, 2014

  02/20/14 Listed by Amazon as one of the top new novels of 2013, The Orphan Train combines the plight of foster children in today’s society, and that of orphans and other homeless children in the early part of the 20th century to create a tale of hope, survival, and triumph of the human spirit against all odds.


The Marshall County Museum and the public libraries in Marshall County have selected this book at this year’s One Book One County read.   


The book by Christina Baker Kline is based around a dark period in our country’s history when hundreds of thousands of children, orphans, homeless or neglected  were shipped by train through the upper Midwest.  There they were given away to families who would agree to take them – some to work on the farms, some to work as mother’s helpers, some to thrive, and some to fail. 


There are many events planned in April for this year’s One Book One County:  On Thursday, April 3rd at 6:30 the Plymouth Library will screen the PBS documentary The American Experience: The Orphan Trains.    The film will also be show at the Argos Library on April 10th at 6 p.m. and at the Bourbon Library on April 24th at 6.

Book discussions are also scheduled at the county libraries: April 3 at Argos at 6:30, April 10th at Plymouth at 6:30, April 14th at the Bremen Library at 6:30, April 19th at Culver Library at 1:30 and April 28th at the Bourbon Library at 6:30. 


Two guest speakers have also been invited to participate in this year’s One Book One County.  On Wednesday, April 16th the Marshall County Historical Museum brings Larita Killian author of Zimbabwe Bound: A Woman’s Journey Through Africa at 5 p.m. for refreshments and social and at 6:30 with the presentation.  On Thursday, April 17th  the Bourbon Library hosts Charlotte Slabaugh, she is a local member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.   


The book, Orphan Train combines the fictional tales of Niamh (pronounced Neeve) Powers, an Irish immigrant who, shortly after immigrating to America with her family, is left orphaned in a tenement fire and has been put into an overcrowded orphanage in New York City. 


The next part of the story is the modern day tale of 17 year old Molly Ayer, a teenager who has been passed from one foster home to another and is in danger of once again being rejected by her foster family.  Her background is a Penobscot Native American orphan who, once again, is in trouble with the law.   


In 1930 the little orphan girl, Niamh,  at only 9 years old,  is put on a train with many homeless children to go to the Midwest to work and, hopefully, have a chance at a better life than in the overcrowded cities of the East Coast.     In 2011 Molly, the teen in the book who struggles growing up and wants and needs to be accepted meets Niamh, now in her 90’s.  The communication tools of today that include the Internet and  Ancestry databases brings the two women together in an unforgettable tale of abuse, prejudice, hope, caring, and determination, as well as a deep understanding and admiration for one another. 


Susie Reinholt from the Plymouth Public Library said, “It’s a very quick read with an uplifting ending.”