What Is the Book "Orphan Train" About?

The book "Orphan Train" takes place in both present-day Maine and 1929 New York and Minnesota. It focuses on a woman named Vivian Daly and her experience as an orphan who was forced onto a train that took her to the Midwest. It's a fiction novel based on historical accounts.

Vivian Daly is an Irish-Catholic immigrant who loses her parents to a house fire at a very young age in 1929. The story centers around Vivian telling her story as an elderly woman to a teenage girl named Molly Ayer, who is performing community service helping Vivian clean out her attic to avoid going to juvenile hall. As Molly helps Vivian go through the trunks of her possessions that are hidden in the attic, she and Vivian start to realize that they have very similar histories.

Molly is a Penobscot Indian who went in and out of foster homes and is being raised by strangers. Both Vivian and Molly have many unanswered questions about what happened to them as children. Vivian begins to remember specifics about her train ride and the other dozens of children who lost everything. The book lets the reader imagine what that was like for the many real children who rode the orphan trains and were rejected and passed over because of their ethnicity, religion or even features such as hair color.