Review: The Orphan Train


One of my favorite books of all time. Not a memoir but a fictional story. Young children left in the care of the state, were sent to the country. Piled up like cattle as they boarded the trains, being shown at each town. Prospective parents would look at them, the babies going first. The younger children assessed for their skills as cheap labor.

The impact of living through something like that is unimaginable. The author takes us through a young girl’s trip on the train and the friends she makes. All of them united in a fear. Even the care takers are unable to provide answers. To living in multiple homes, trying to fit in and then as an adult, ‘fake an empathy you do not feel.’ Her sense of otherness, despite becoming successful, married woman, the hurt child remains inside. The need to please, to keep quiet, to survive.

Paired alongside this story is a girl aging out of the foster system. Her father is dead and her mother insane. Decades younger she comes to work with the old woman and they help each other process the events.

Topics explored included feelings of the children to their foster carers. The exhausting nature of always having to make do and be grateful for everything. Other children can be rude, obnoxious or bossy, but a foster child must be perfect. Their place is too vulnerable.

To romantic relationships, ghosts of the people you leave behind and the impact of one’s early life on adulthood.

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