Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?  19 January 2015

Yes, it is Monday and I hope it is going to be as lovely as the weekend was -- nothing quite like spring in January but then, this is Texas so that isn't so unusual.

This Monday I am finishing up "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline.  I ran across it at B&N and couldn't leave without it.  I am not usually that way with books -- even if it sounds interesting I usually have my wits about me enough to try to procure the book in some manner rather than paying $25 for a brand new, hardcover edition. My resolve just dissolved when I read the dust jacket synopsis and I didn't flinch at bringing it home at full price. 

I started reading it in the car on the way home.  I couldn't put it down.  I almost finished it in a day.  I set it aside for the weekend because I didn't want it to end.  However, I will finish it today but before I do let me recommend this to anybody who enjoys historical fiction (based on fact) and who enjoys books about the human condition.

This is a story of Molly, a troubled 17 year old who was caught stealing a library book and sentenced to 50 hours of community service.  She has been in and out of foster care for sometime and is just about to reach the age to be out of the system.  She is growing and maturing and the author communicates those changes and thought processes well.  She is to do her community service with an elderly lady named Vivian.  Vivian is quite well off yet quite alone and needs help going through boxes in her attic.  Molly isn't sure if she can endure 50 hours of that but as the story progresses she has to write a paper on some life journey and she thinks that Vivian's story might just work so she sets about interviewing her.  As they go through the boxes of stored items (which are clearly never going into the trash of any kind), Vivian's story unfolds.  Molly learns of Vivian's life at home, her immigration from Ireland,  how she  lost her family and ended up on one of the orphan trains that were used in the 1920's and 30's to find homes for orphaned children.  She learned of the hardships and dangers that a 9 year old Vivian -- aka Dorothy -- aka Niamh had to face and how these children, in large part, were adopted for labor and not for love.  While it is not hugely graphic it is a terrifying look at the lives of these children and the cruelty of the system.  As the book progresses, Molly takes it upon herself to do a bit of genealogical research at the library and makes a wonderful yet sad discovery -- don't worry -- I won't share -- you will have to read the book to find out what it is.  Up to this point she hasn't shared that discovery with Vivian.  I wonder if she ever will?

At any rate, it is like this book was written for me.  Part of it was set in the time period of my parent's youths which give me a glimpse into the times of their childhoods.  It most certainly appeals to my genealogical sensibilities and make me want to go farther with the research than Molly did.  It is a completely engaging book that I really hate to see end. 

As I finish the book today I will let you know if the end fulfills my expectations.  I have a feeling I am going to shed a couple of tears -- for Molly?  for Vivian?  for all the children of that time who were treated as a commodity and not nurtured for the gifts they were?  Probably all of it. 

More later.