What Is the Summary of the Book, "Orphan Train"?


Quick Answer

Christina Baker Kline's novel, "Orphan Train," tells the story of Vivian Daly, an elderly woman who grew up as an orphan during the Great Depression. The narrative alternates time lines, as a now-elderly Vivian faces her childhood memories.

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What Is the Summary of the Book, "Orphan Train"?
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Full Answer

The character of Vivian Daly was born in a small village in Ireland. After arriving in New York as a child, she is put on a train with many other orphans, and sent across the country in the hopes of finding a new family. Vivian grows into adulthood while living a turbulent life in Minnesota. She later moves to Maine, where she meets 17-year-old Molly Ayer.

Molly is a Penobscot Indian who has spent her life being shuffled between foster homes. In an endeavor to avoid juvenile hall by performing community service, she takes on the task of helping the 90-year-old Vivian clean out her attic. In doing so, the pair discovers their seemingly disparate lives share many similarities. The two form a bond as Vivian faces the repressed memories of her youth. In the process, she learns to overcome her sense of shame and find strength in accepting the life she has lived.

"Orphan Train" alternates between two narratives: Depression-era Minnesota and contemporary Maine. Vivian recounts her past in a first-person voice. These recollections convey the entire 90 years of her life. Her present day story is written with a third-person-limited voice and spans the course of six weeks.

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