Tammy Tattles Book Review by Tamera Lawrence: Book shines light on orphan's life in 1929

Orphan Train
Orphan Train

More than 15,000 children are currently in the Pennsylvania foster care system. Many of these children will eventually be put up for adoption. Agencies are constantly looking out for loving families to take in these vulnerable kids. A foster parent must provide food, shelter, clothing and school supplies. These potential foster parents are put through a vigorous background check as agencies strive to find a safe and loving environment for these disconnected children.

But these safeguards weren’t always in place.

In fact, it’s pretty scary to see what Pennsylvania once did with its orphans…

To think of a child being paraded and displayed like a side of beef in front of adults is a hard pill to swallow, yet between 1854 and 1929 that is exactly what happened to many city orphans. Children of varying ages were put on board an Orphan train and sent out west to poor rural families, who often needed a work hand on the farm or just couldn’t have a child of their own. These children were put on exhibition for the town folk and then handed over to complete strangers. Some children had good lives, but others weren’t so lucky and ended up as runaways.


ORPHAN TRAIN by author Christina Baker Kline tells the harrowing story of Vivian Daly, who rode the Orphan Train to an uncertain future in Minnesota, 1929. With little regard to her feelings, Vivian’s new family changes her name from Niamh to Dorothy as simply as if she were a new pet. Vivian is forced to work like a seamstress and loses any sense of any true childhood or family life. Alone, she must face the obstacles that come her way, including rivalry in the workplace. Then jump to 2011. Trouble teen Molly Ayer is a foster child, who has been through the pain of losing her family and getting lost in the system. Now in trouble with the law, Molly has to work community hours cleaning out an attic for an elderly woman, who has storages of hidden treasures tainted with a painful past.

Although this book takes place in 1929, little has changed over the years. Orphans are created every day. When a parent fail to maintain a safe environment for their child, the state often has to step in and take over for these parents. This can be a confusing time for a child. The pain of separation or anxiety of placement is a hardship these kids must endure. But it’s a necessary evil to protect a child from an abusive or neglectful parent. The hope is to rehabilitate the parent or find a relative for long term placement.

But the sad truth is many children end up returning to the foster care system.

With a passion for reading, writing and movies, Award winning author Tamera Lawrence, of Gilbertsville, shares her view point on books, movies and current day affairs in Tammy Tattles. Feel free to comment or share your own personal viewpoint on Tammy’s blogat http://authortameraelawrence.blogspot.com/.