Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Orphan Train

Plot Summary Part 4

It's just another example of poor writing in this story.

Anyway, Vivian bones another guy named Jim, just because he was Dutchy's friend and is nearby. She marries him but doesn't really love him.

Back in the present, Molly stops dressing like a vampire whore. We are supposed to think that Vivian's story has somehow changed Molly but there is no other evidence of that.  Vivian tracks down her long lost daughter and in the last page of the book they meet, though we get no details of this meeting.

The end.

Literary Criticism:

Christina Baker Klein is not the absolute worst writer in the world. That is the best praise I can give her. For Klein has composed a very trite work of literature that covers no new ground. The whole "abused suffering orphan story" has been done over and over and over and Ms. Klein adds nothing new to the genre. Even worse, she doesn't do the trite particularly well. She's not even an average writer.

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Klein writes the requisite suffering orphan story, complete with examples of hardships and evil foster parents. But she has no idea where to take the story from there.  What is it that people who read "suffering orphan" stories really want to see? They want to see the suffering orphan placed with a loving family and enter into a loving relationship with new parents. That never happens here. Vivian's last set of foster parents were better only by comparison to the previous ones, treating her as a Wal Mart slave. Vivian never loved them and they never loved her.

After that the story jumps to Vivian's adulthood, skipping the most important part, showing Vivian finally getting a loving Mom and Dad. It's as if several chapters are missing. The parts about Vivian as an adult seem wholly unconnected with the rest of the book and feel tacked on to make this short book (less than 300 pages) of a sellable length. Klein knew how to start writing a "suffering orphan" story but she had no idea how to end it in a way that would satisfy the reader.

Furthermore, her literary method of flashback and flash-forward is simply overused in books like this; orphan stories such as this are not a trite topic, but here we have a trite topic written in the most trite way.  Vivian's story is supposed to cause some change in Molly, but we know that Molly is changed only because she tells us so. We don't actually see any plausible change in Molly (aside from her hair), nor do we see any plausible explanation for what part of Vivian's life story moved her.

Another problem is characters acting illogically. Vivian is in love with Dutchy because she spent a day on a train with him when she was 9 years old? That makes no sense. Furthermore having had a terrible life as an orphan, she turns around and makes her own child an orphan? No rational person would do that.

And lastly, we are robbed of emotional exposition. The highlight of the story is when Vivian reunited with her daughter who she put up for adoption. But we never see it happening. The story cuts off before it does. We are also supposed to see a change in Molly, but although we are told it is occurring, we never see it. In fact, we never see complex emotional interactions between characters at all. Klein simply doesn't have the writing chops to do that. All we are left with is a plot-driven story about orphan suffering-porn, which is not entertaining.

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Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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