Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Orphan Train Chapter 27 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A week later, Ralph is cheerfully working on his lawn to celebrate the beginning of spring. Molly tries to eat her cereal beside Dina, but Dina reminds her “no food in the living room.” After breakfast, Molly calls Jack. He’s still consciously working to “hold a grudge” and he says little before hanging up. Molly takes the bus to the library. On the way, she listens to her recordings of Vivian. At one point, Vivian told her that some periods of life have more meaning than others. She explained that her life since the age of twenty-three has been “flat.” Molly considers Vivian’s lonely life, with her relatives and husband dead and no children. She thinks about Vivian’s view that important people “stay” in one’s life, “haunting us” in the present. She feels “Vivian has given [her] community service sentence meaning” and she “wants to give something back.”
Molly’s attempt to eat beside Dina suggests that she is making a small effort at improving their relationship—but Dina’s reaction highlights how she actively keeps Molly at a distance. Vivian’s theory that some eras of life have more meaning and that most of her life has been “flat” implies that meaning is created through human relationships, change, and struggle. Vivian’s use of the word “haunting” connotes a ghost who has unfinished business, calling back to the prologue and implying that Vivian’s present life still contains unfinished business. Molly’s desire to “give back” to Vivian shows how their relationship has allowed Molly to open up and start genuinely caring for others.
Themes
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
Molly decides to help Vivian “find peace” by finding answers to the “mysteries” in her story. At the library, she researches the history of Irish immigration. On a library computer, she researches key words from Vivian’s story, like “Agnes Pauline” and “Lower east Side Elizabeth St. fire 1929.” She finds the Agnes Pauline passenger records and the death notices for Vivian’s father and brothers - but not her sister. Molly then researches the Schatzmans, and discovers that in 1929 they adopted a daughter, Margaret. Molly realizes the daughter was Maisie. With further research, she discovers that Maisie lived in upstate New York, had several children and grandchildren, and died just the year before. Molly wonders how she will tell Vivian.
Molly’s choice to research the “mysteries” in Vivian’s past suggests that in Molly’s view, Vivian’s life story is still unsettled. Molly’s view is supported by Vivian’s own comments, which implied that her connections to lost loved ones were unresolved. Molly’s discovery reveals that during all of these years, Vivian wasn’t as alone as she believed. Yet by lying to her, the Schatzmans effectively turned Maisie into a ghost, robbing Vivian of the chance to connect with her only living family member. The fact that Maisie died just the year before, then, makes this discovery all the more tragic.
Themes
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon