Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Kline's novel "Orphan Train" is a story of teenage Molly who is in the foster care system in Maine. Having been moved around in various homes she now finds herself at 17 and soon to be phased out of the system. She is a good student and is encouraged to go to college by her teacher but when she finds herself in trouble for stealing a library book, she has to do community service. Her boyfriend finds her a place to do the service for an elderly lady, Vivian, for whom his mother does house work. Molly and Vivian hit it off and have a common thread in their lives. Both are orphans. Molly gets Vivian to tell her story and the paper she writes about the orphan trains wins her an award. The book moves back and forth telling both Molly's story and Vivian's story.
I don't know why I waited so long to read this book. I guess I thought that I had already read it. In fact what I had read previously was the non-fiction "Orphan Trains: the story of Charles Loring Brace and the children he saved and failed" by Steven O'Conner. The two books go hand in hand and would be a great pair for a book discussion group. Both are very good and make you wonder at how many orphans there must have been in New York in the 1930s for them to have to transport them west to find homes with just anyone who would take them.
Oh and if you are interested check out NPR's podcast of the book review which discusses the actual Children's Aid Society's Orphan Trains.