Meet Molly Ayer, a 17 year old Goth foster kid who needs to fulfill community service hours or risk going to juvenile hall. Next meet Vivian, a wealthy widow who agrees to fulfill Molly’s community service requirement by having her clean out her attic. Their relationship grows as they work together in the attic and deepens when Molly’s teacher assigns a project where she has to interview someone about their life’s journey. She chooses Vivian. Vivian takes Molly on the journey of being an orphan emigrating from Ireland to Ellis Island, NY, at the age of 9, through her adoption, childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in Minnesota. Vivian’s answers tell a powerful story.
Kline uses alternating chapters to tell the women’s stories, with parallels becoming more evident throughout the novel. Throughout the story, we alternate between present day Maine in Molly’s story, to the 1920’s-1940’s with Vivian’s story taking the reader through the midst of the Great Depression and World War II in Minnesota. Orphan Train is a wonderful novel that parallels the lives of orphans in the Depression era to those in present-day.