Nine-year-old Niahm (pronounced “Neev”) Power held tight to the claddagh necklace that her Gram had given her. It was 1929 and the gift was a lifetime ago: Gram gave it to her before the boat ride to America; before Da, Maisie and the twins died in the fire, and before Niahm was put on the train heading west.
It was before Naihm learned that trust was everything when you have nothing else.
I always know that I’ve got a good novel in my hands when I spontaneously gasp, “Oh, no!” while I’m reading.
I did that a lot with “Orphan Train.”
And yet, I have a hard time nailing down why. The appeal of this book isn’t the well-crafted characters or the what-would-I-do-if-it-was-me feeling they give you. It’s not that author Christina Baker Kline based it loosely on real historical events that many adults are surprised to learn about — although that’s pretty appealing in itself.
No, I think the draw here is in those gasping moments, the “You don’t want me anymore?” poignancy, the desperate sense of loss embedded in this story, all of which sneak up on you while you’re reading and make it unforgettable.
Crack this book open just one page, in fact, and I don’t think you’ll be able to let it go. “Orphan Train” is one of those books that sticks to your heart like glue.
Terri Schlichenmeyer reviews books from her home in LaCrosse, Wis. Contact her at email@example.com.
• WHAT: "Orphan Train"
• BY: Christina Baker Kline
• GRADE: A++