The best-selling novel “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline has been selected for the Sarasota County Library System’s 2015 “One Book One Community” read-together book. The novel, initially released in paperback format in April 2013, bucking conventional publishing protocol for hardcover release, was an immediate popular success and has remained on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 58 weeks.
Kline will visit Sarasota on Friday, Jan. 16, and will speak at two different venues that will be free and open to the public to kick off more than a month of “One Book One Community” festivities. The first program will be 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Venice Library, 300 S. Nokomis Ave., Venice. The second is 7-8 p.m. at University South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus, Selby Auditorium, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Pre-registration is requested in order to reserve a seat. Find both the USF and Venice Library event listings at http://bit.ly/cbakerkline
“Orphan Train” is a story about a 17-year-old foster child who is about to age out of the foster care system. Molly, having experienced a vagabond life in foster care, is a bright but troubled teen who relishes defying authority. Claiming that she can’t live without it, she steals “Jane Eyre” from the library. She is assigned community service as a last chance to preserve her current foster placement in Spruce Harbor, Maine. Molly’s assignment is to clean 91-year-old Vivian Daly’s attic. At their first meeting, Vivian reveals that she was also orphaned at the same age as Molly.
This surprising contemporary beginning is the impetus for discovering Molly’s fate. Her future unfolds in alternating chapters with Vivian’s story. Following a tragedy, Vivian, as a 12-year-old recent Irish immigrant to New York City, is placed by the Children’s Aid Society on an Orphan Train in 1929. Vivian’s life from young, homeless girl to rich widow is based on many similar historical biographies. As Vivian shares her memories, Molly learns about trust and friendship. Her coming-of-age insights are gained during genealogical sleuthing.
The narrative references a real period in American history. From 1854 until 1929, 250,000 homeless, abandoned, and orphaned children living in Eastern cities were relocated to the rural Midwest aboard “Orphan” or “Baby” Trains. This was the earliest inception of formalized foster care. Potential foster parents, responding to poster advertisements, could come to view “orphans” at train stops along the route. On the spot, custody was signed over to any person agreeing to feed, shelter, and educate a child.
“This book’s popularity continues to gain momentum with book clubs, genealogy buffs, and people of all ages,” said Barb McDonald, an outreach coordinator for the Sarasota County Library System. “I am looking forward to promoting programs to our community concerning themes in this book. We plan to offer presentations about how to help support children in foster care, topics related to genealogy, and our county’s local train history.”
Kline will sign copies of “Orphan Train” following her presentations, and copies of her book will be available for purchase at the events. Additionally, Kline will hold a book signing at Barnes & Noble, 4010 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 17.
Other themed programs related to “Orphan Train,” including book discussions and companion movies, will be scheduled for February. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.
For more information about the “One Book One Community” future events and how to participate, call 941-861-5000.