'Orphan Train' makes a splash in 2014

'Orphan Train,' a novel about the friendship between an elderly woman who was sent West in her youth and a contemporary teenager, has dominated paperback bestseller lists.

'Orphan Train' is by Christina Baker Kline.

Is Christina Baker Kline’s novel “Orphan Train” the unexpected hit of 2014? 

“Orphan Train,” which is the fifth book by Kline, follows a contemporary teenager named Molly who gets to know elderly Vivian Daly, who once upon a time traveled from New York to Minnesota as part of the plan that sent orphans to live with families in the Midwest. The book was published in April 2013. It hit the IndieBound trade paperback list during the week of Dec. 8 and has appeared almost every week since. (“Orphan Train” was released in paperback only). Meanwhile, the book also occupies the number two spot on the The New York Times trade paperback bestseller list for the week of July 20. 

Kline told USA Today her previous books had performed modestly – she remembered her publisher, HarperCollins, mentioned a possible bonus if her book reached sales of 55,000 copies and her agent said, “We can dream.” Now “Orphan Train” has sold more than 1.1 million copies in both paper and digital form, according to USA Today

What makes this book special? The author says that “I think a lot of readers are looking for a book they can talk about.” “Orphan Train” has been popular with book clubs, which, as noted by USA Today writer Bob Minzesheimer, are often drawn to paperbacks.

“Orphan Train” also received some praise upon its release. Kirkus Reviews called the book “dramatic [and] emotional…. Kline does a superb job in connecting goth-girl Molly … to Vivian…. The realistic narrative follows characters as they change and grow.” Meanwhile, Library Journal writer Christine Perkins of Bellingham Public Library in Washington State wrote that the book is “a compelling story about loss, adaptability, and courage…. With compassion and delicacy Kline presents a little-known chapter of American history…. Her accessible, interesting novel will appeal to readers who enjoy the work of Sara Donati.” 

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