Orphan trains, crime thrillers, romance, college roommates…

This week at the Gilpin Library

by Larry Grieco, Librarian

A skilled and masterful storyteller is at work in Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. This poignant novel is about two women, seemingly as different as they can be, but who share some deep seated emotions and insecurities. The story moves back and forth between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota. The historical context illuminates a long-forgotten chapter of American history – the so-called “orphan trains” that ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest. They carried thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by chance. If lucky, they would be adopted by a kind and loving family, and if not, they might “face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude.” Vivian Daly was such a child, sent on an orphan train from New York City to a family in rural Minnesota. Many years later Vivian returns to the coast of Maine to live out her life. Her path converges with seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer, the product of a number of foster homes. Molly gets into trouble and is forced to do community service, which takes the form of helping to clean out an elderly woman’s attic – ninety-one year old Vivian’s. Molly and Vivian sort through the keepsakes of Vivian’s childhood, and they find they have a lot more in common than either might have imagined. Kirkus Reviews: “Kline does a superb job in connecting Goth-girl Molly, emotionally damaged by the ‘toll of years of judgment and criticism,’ to Vivian, who sees her troubled childhood reflected in angry Molly.”

Karin Slaughter writes thrillers that are as complex as they are compelling. Her latest book, Unseen, is the story of three people, two of whom are detectives, and two of whom are lovers. One of them is married to a Georgia cop who is murdered. One is the mother of the murdered cop, and one is the lover of the mother of the cop, who happens to have disappeared himself, as he is a detective working undercover to bust a drug ring in Macon. Of course, the cop’s murder has something to do with the same drug ring. Are you following? You can see how this could be both compelling and complex, and in the capable hands of the author it all works perfectly well. The Washington Post: “Karin Slaughter is one of the best crime novelists in America.”

And finally this week we look at The Red Book, a novel by Deborah Copaken Kogan (try saying her name rapidly three times.) This is the story of the twentieth college reunion of four women who were Harvard undergrad roommates back in the day. They were each interesting in their own way when they were in their early twenties, and now, twenty years later, are ever more so. Every five years Harvard publishes what it calls “the red book,” a class report containing brief autobiographical essays by fellow alumni.” The four kept tabs on each other by reading this periodic update, but it seems there is a lot more they each have to share about their lives, and it all comes out in an unforgettable weekend: “their histories, their dashed dreams, and their secret yearnings.” Publishers Weekly: “Smart, funny, engrossing, and action-packed meditation on women’s lives.”

Don’t forget, anyone can get on our electronic newsletter list by emailing with the words “Add me” in the subject line. The first e-issue has gone out to everyone who signed up. You can join the list at any time for future issues.

The Summer Reading Program is in full swing with 140 kiddos signed up. They’ve been busy “popping open a good book” all summer and enjoying the prizes they pick out themselves from our lobby display case. Keep August 10th in mind as the day we have our end of summer reading program ice cream party! There will be a number of grand prize drawings, not to mention all the ice cream you, your parents, your sisters and brothers, and the library staff can eat in a two-hour period. It’s always the little kiddo social event of the season!

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