Tag Archives: bestseller

“Orphan Train” Book Review

Molly never expected to find any commonalities between her foster-child self and the ninety-one year old Vivian living in a mansion in Maine, but when Molly must complete community service or go to juvenile prison, she ends up helping Vivian clean out her attic. Except, what she discovers up there ties the two women together in a way neither of them could have imagined.5026748369_8700f4a169_b

Orphan Train covers a piece of history that very few people know about – a piece of history that is beyond unnerving, where orphans from overcrowded Eastern United States cities were packed onto trains and delivered to the rural Midwest. Families selected these orphans to take home with them. Some were lucky; they were adopted into loving homes. Most were not.

If you weren’t an infant, chances were you ended up as a farm hand, a servant- a child laborer. No adoption. No love. Only a means to an end.

This novel transitions between the modern day (2011) and the later 1920s to 1930s/early 40s. Readers learn about Molly’s life as a foster child, while also reading about Vivian’s childhood as an orphan train rider. As the story progresses, it becomes clearer and clearer how similar Molly and Vivian are, not only with their stories, but also with their personalities.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, I thought Vivian’s storyline was much stronger than Molly’s. After reading the acknowledgements, I understand why. The author, Christine Baker Kline, did a lot of research into the orphan trains, even interviewing surviving members. However, it seems that she didn’t do the same level of research for the foster system, and that Molly was more of a vehicle for Vivian’s storyline than anything else.

Despite this issue, I found myself drawn into the story, and after I finished the novel, I researched orphan trains. I’m astonished that orphan trains aren’t mentioned as part of U.S. History, but as occurs most often with history, only bits and pieces of the truth are stitched together to give the appearance of a whole picture.

Orphan Train is worth reading, even if to only familiarize oneself with one of the darker aspects of American History.

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Keith.)

What Makes a Novel a Bestseller?

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When you ask a writer how successful they want their novel to be, most will answer they want it to be a bestseller. But what makes a book a bestseller? Are there rules that can be followed to increase a book’s chance of becoming a hit?

Not all bestsellers are well written. Not all bestsellers are recommendable.

Many fantastic stories are forgotten, never heard of, or flop when they hit the shelves.

So what makes a bestseller?

The truth is we really don’t know. We can try to identify commonalities between bestsellers, but at the end of the day Paper Towns is very different from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and both those novels are nothing like Fifty Shades of Grey.

But, aren’t there at least a few rules we can glean from bestsellers, even if they are unalike?

“There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.” – Somerset Maugham

If no one can agree what the rules are, then what can writers do to work toward a bestseller?

Just write. Writing isn’t about perfection. It’s about working hard and having your writing grow with you. When you get an idea, work with it. Flesh it out. People don’t know what will make a bestseller, despite many believing they do.

It would be great if every book published was a bestseller, but thousands of books are published every year. And, guess what? The vast majority of them aren’t bestsellers.

So, besides writing, what can you do?

Write your way. Many times bestsellers are books that offer something new to the literary world, or if the concept isn’t completely new, the view on it is.

Don’t let others tell you that you’re incapable of writing a bestseller. As stated above, no one knows which books will be bestsellers. They can guess, and sometimes they’re right, but they can’t know with one hundred percent certainty.

Work hard. It’s not just about writing. It’s about editing, marketing, and connecting with the literary world and potential readers.

At the end of the day, write the best that you can. Don’t focus on creating a bestseller. Take your idea, expand on it, write your first draft, edit and revise, get others to read and critique it, edit and revise until your work is the best it can be, and then work on the synopsis and query letter if you’re going the traditional publishing route, or if you’re self-publishing, publish and market your novel as if you’re not already working a full-time job.

How do you improve your work?

(Photo courtesy of Maurice.)