Tag Archives | Orphan Train

Tell Me Something True – A Visit With Christina Baker Kline

Today’s post by this month’s featured author, Christina Baker Kline | @BakerKline

Christina Baker Kline

As a writer I’ve always been interested in how people tell the stories of their lives and what these stories reveal, intentionally or not, about who they are.   I am intrigued by the spaces between words, the silences that conceal long-kept secrets, the complexities that lie beneath the surface.   And I am interested in the pervasive and insidious legacy of trauma: the way events beyond our control can shape and define our lives.   All of my novels address these themes.

Like my four previous novels, Orphan Train is about cultural identity and family history.   For the first time, however, I undertook a project that required a huge amount of historical, cultural, and geographical research.   This novel traces the journey of Vivian Day, a 91-year-old woman, from a small village in Ireland to the crowded streets of the Lower East Side to the wide-open expanses of the Midwest to the coast of Maine.   Her life spans nearly a century, encompassing great historical change and upheaval.

Orphan Train is a specifically American story of mobility and rootlessness, highlighting a little-known but historically significant moment in our country’s past.   Between 1854 and 1929, so-called “orphan trains ” transported more than 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children from the coastal cities of the eastern United States to the Midwest, where they were taken in and many were eventually adopted.   My own background is partly Irish, and so I decided that I wanted to write about an Irish girl who has kept silent about the circumstances that led her to the orphan train.   “People who cross the threshold between the known world and that place where the impossible does happen discover the problem of how to convey that experience, ” Kathryn Harrison writes. Over the course of Orphan Train Vivian moves from shame about her past to acceptance, eventually coming to terms with what she’s been through.   In the process she learns about the regenerative power of claiming — and telling — one’s life story.

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Orphan Train: Featured Recipe

Today’s post by Ingrid of Edible Tapestry | @EdibleTapestry

Today we have a recipe inspired by this month’s book club selection, ORPHAN TRAIN, and created by chef Ingrid of Edible Tapestry. We thought it fitting to provide this for the She Reads book clubs that will meet throughout the month to discuss the novel. We hope you find the book and this dish equally delicious!



I’d intended to make a savory dish for May’s book selection as my last two guest posts were very sweet. The point of my collaboration with She Reads, however, is to create a recipe that is inspired by incidents in the book and the characters that they are centered around.

It was a dish from character Niamh’s own poignant culinary recollections that I decided must be the May recipe, despite the fact that I kept thinking someone really needed to cook that poor girl a dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes with creamed corn and collards. But the memory of her gram rolling yellow dough for a rhubarb tart while a goose roasted in the oven was such a source of comfort to her–the thing she uses to get through some difficult moments in Orphan Train. Her life, filled with strife from an early age, moves from one period to another with very few moments of tranquility. All she wants is to feel to safe. This vision of Gram bustling around her kitchen in County Galway momentarily calmed her and was the perfect inspiration for this recipe.

I was stubborn about this idea of mine. Rhubarb has been hard to find. The farmers in our area tell me it won’t be ready until next week. But one, Jane from Garnet Creek Road, said hers was ready and available for purchase. Look at these beautiful stalks.


I added a cup of diced strawberries for sweetness and color, but the rhubarb takes center stage in the tart, unlike the berry sweetness of a strawberry rhubarb pie. I used turbinado sugar which made a deep, rich burgundy filling. I loved the look and taste but white sugar would make a filling of a brighter color. For convenience, a prepared crust can be substituted for the Flaky Yellow Crust I have included in the recipe.


Flaky Yellow Crust:

1 c. all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

6 T butter, cut into pieces

1/2 tsp. white vinegar

1 egg yolk

2 T ice cold water

Rhubarb Filling:

3 c. fresh rhubarb, sliced into half inch pieces

1 c. fresh, diced strawberries

2 c. sugar

Pinch of salt

1 T all-purpose flour

1 T butter


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all filling ingredients.




Bring to a simmer over medium heat.


Cook 20 minutes until thickened and reduced, stirring frequently.

To make the crust, sift together the salt, sugar, and flour in a medium sized mixing bowl.


Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles lumpy beach sand.



Add the egg yolk, vinegar, and water.


Mix just until the dough comes together. It happens very quickly. Over-mixing will make a tougher dough. Pat the dough into a flattened circle on a floured surface.


Dust the surface with flour. Roll into a circle large enough to fit inside a tart dish or pan.


Roll the dough up on the rolling pin to transfer.


Unroll it into the tart pan.


Fold the excess edges under to form a thick crust or trim it off.


Prick the bottom of the dough.



When the filling is ready, pour it into the prepared crust.


Bake for 35 minutes.


Cool 30 minutes at room temperature, then chill thoroughly before serving to allow the filling to firm.



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May Book Club Selection


Update: We’re delighted to announce that the winners of this giveaway are MARSHA, NANCY REYNOLDS, ARIEL, VALERIE STRANATHAN, JEN, BONNIE K, SHERRY MEYER, KELLY, NANCY WRAY, and MELISSA CRYTZER FRY. She has been notified via email. Thanks to all who entered and don’t forget to come back soon. We have a number of giveaways lined up for the future.  

I’m often amazed at how little history I know. Sure I’ve got a working knowledge of the big events. The big wars. The big men and women who shaped history. And yet, truth be told, those are usually not the events and people that most fascinate me. I’m drawn in by those who were forgotten. The quiet heros. The stories that didn’t get told. The people and events that didn’t make the history books. Christina Baker Kline has given us such a story with this month’s book club selection, ORPHAN TRAIN. And we are very thankful to her for doing so.

The generous folks at William Morrow publishers are giving away ten copies of ORPHAN TRAIN to our readers this month. (U.S. residents only) Just leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. And as always we’ll be doing a Twitter chat with the author and discussing the book with our online book club at the end of the month. We’d love you to join us for both.

 About the novel:

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by luck or chance. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?

As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.

Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship.

Read an excerpt of ORPHAN TRAIN here.

Add ORPHAN TRAIN to your Goodreads Want-ToRead list.



Christina Baker Kline

Christina Baker Kline is a novelist, nonfiction writer and editor. In addition to  Orphan Train, her novels include  Bird in Hand,  The Way Life Should Be,  Desire Lines  and  Sweet Water. She is Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University and an on-staff editor and writing coach at the social networking site SheWrites.com.

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