Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Orphan Train Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Molly finds a national adoption registry online and mails in Vivian’s registration forms along with a copy of her daughter’s birth certificate. Ten days later, Vivian gets a call from the registry. They inform her that fourteen years before, a North Dakota woman matching her details registered to find her birth mother. They give Vivian the name and number of the woman, Sarah Dunnell. Vivian calls Sarah, who immediately books a flight to visit her, bringing along her husband and granddaughter Becca, who “loves adventure.” Vivian and Molly learn that Sarah is a retired musician who has several grandchildren. Over the phone, Sarah tells Vivian that she has always “wondered who [she] was and why [she] gave [her] away.” Molly, Terry, and Jack excitedly help Vivian prepare the house for the visit.
Vivian’s earlier fears that she “had no right” to look for her daughter are proven wrong when she learns that Sarah has been searching for her, too. When she tells Vivian she has “always wondered” who her mother was and why she gave her away, it becomes apparent that just like Molly, Sarah’s life is also haunted by unresolved questions. Sarah’s immediate decision to plan a visit suggests that she, too, is ready to face the past and find answers to her questions. Their collective efforts to prepare for Sarah’s visit show that Vivian, Molly, Terry, and Jack have developed a sense of community together.
Themes
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
On the day of Sarah and her family’s arrival, Jack goes to pick them up from the airport. Sitting by the window, Molly thinks of how much “self-acceptance” and “perspective” she has gained from Vivian’s friendship. She considers the meaning this gives to the positive and negative life events that have brought her to Vivian. Jack pulls into the driveway, and Molly and Vivian walk onto the porch, holding hands. Becca gets out of the car first. Vivian and Molly both gasp when they see her long red hair and freckles. When Sarah emerges, Molly is deeply moved by her expression of “yearning and wariness and hopefulness and love.” Molly looks at Vivian’s necklace and considers its meaning: “love, loyalty, friendship – a never-ending path that leads away from home and circles back.” Vivian nearly falls, but Molly holds onto her. Vivian smiles at Becca and says, “Now then. Where shall we begin?”
As if in response to her own earlier comment about the human tendency to “find meaning” in experiences, Molly now realizes how her friendship with Vivian gives meaning to the life events that pre-dated their meeting. This echoes the feeling of peace and belonging that Vivian felt when she reunited with Dutchy. The parallel between both moments illustrates the novel’s attitude toward love as a feeling of meaningful connection that encompasses family, friendship, and romantic relationships. Vivian’s reunion with her daughter then gives special meaning to the word “home” as a state of human connection rather than a physical place. The novel then ends with a state of hopeful expectation, an anticipation for a better future that does not deny the pain of the past, but rather uses that pain to build stronger and more poignant connections.
Themes
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon