Christina Baker Kline
author of ORPHAN TRAIN
Novelist Christina Baker Kline shares with Kirkus TV why she thinks readers have connected so well with her runaway bestseller, Orphan Train, and why it was surprising to her that more people don't know about the lost American history of the 20th century she reveals in the novel.


KIRKUS REVIEW

Kline (Bird in Hand, 2009, etc.) draws a dramatic, emotional story from a neglected corner of American history.

Molly is a troubled teen, a foster child bounced from one unsuitable home to another. Vivian is a wealthy 91-year-old widow, settled in a Victorian mansion on the Maine seashore. But Vivian’s story has much in common with Molly’s. Vivian Daly, born Niamh Power, has gone "from cobblestoned village on the coast of Ireland to a tenement in New York to a train filled with children, steaming westward through farmland, to a lifetime in Minnesota." Vivian’s journey west was aboard an "Orphan Train," a bit of misguided 1900s-era social engineering moving homeless, destitute city children, mostly immigrants, into Midwest families. Vivian’s journey wasn’t entirely happy. She was deposited with the Byrnes, who wanted only child labor in a dressmaking enterprise. Then, as the Great Depression began, Vivian was dumped into the Grote household, where she suffered neglect and abuse. Only after the intervention of a kind teacher did Vivian find a home with a decent, loving family. The story unfolds through chapters set in the present day, with Molly, caught in a minor theft, forced into community service work and agreeing to help Vivian clean an attic. Other chapters flash back to the period from 1929 through World War II. In those decades, Vivian travels West, endures the Byrnes and Grotes, finds a loving home with the Nielsens, reconnects with Dutchy, another orphan-train refugee, marries and is widowed when Dutchy dies in the war. Molly’s life story unfolds in parallel—a neglected half–Native American child, whose father was an accident victim and whose mother drowned in drugs and crime—and Molly slowly opens up to Vivian. Kline does a superb job in connecting goth-girl Molly, emotionally damaged by the "toll [of] years of judgment and criticism," to Vivian, who sees her troubled childhood reflected in angry Molly. The realistic narrative follows characters as they change and grow, making a poignant revelation from Vivian entirely believable, as is Molly’s response to Vivian’s dark secret.

A deeply emotional story drawn from the shadows.


Recent Interviews

Laini Taylor

author of STRANGE THE DREAMER

March 27, 2017
STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor In bestselling YA writer Laini Taylor’s new fantasy novel, Strange the Dreamer, the dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? “Lovers of intricate worldbuilding and feverish romance will find this enthralling,” our critic writes. View video >

Brad Parks

author of SAY NOTHING

March 7, 2017
SAY NOTHING by Brad Parks In Brad Parks’ new thriller Say Nothing, judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: a prestigious job. A beloved family. On an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, he is about to pick up his six-year-old twins to go swimming when his wife, Alison, texts him that she’ll get the kids from school instead. It’s not until she gets home later that Scott realizes she doesn’t have the children. And she never sent the text. Then the phone rings, and every parent’s most chilling nightmare begins. A man has stolen Sam and Emma. For Scott and Alison, the kidnapper’s call is only the beginning of a twisting, gut-churning ordeal of blackmail, deceit, and terror; a high-profile trial like none the judge or his wife has ever experienced. Their marriage falters. Suspicions and long-buried jealousies rise to the surface. Fractures appear. Lies are told. “The nerve-shredding never lets up for a minute as Parks picks you up by the scruff of the neck, shakes you vigorously, and repeats over and over again till a climax so harrowing that you’ll be shaking with gratitude that it’s finally over,” our critic writes in a starred review. View video >

Upcoming Kirkus Interviews

April 4, 2017
Emma Donoghue