Orphan Train

Orphan Train

Molly is one of the novel’s two protagonists. She is an intelligent, opinionated, and reflective seventeen-year-old girl who lives with her foster parents, Ralph and Dina Thibodeaus, at their home in Spruce Harbor, Maine. Molly’s father was a Penobscot Indian and her mother, Donna Ayer, is white. As a child, Molly lived with her parents in a trailer on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Maine. When Molly was eight years old, her father died in a car accident. When her mother landed in jail a few months later, Molly was placed into the foster care system. She has lived in several foster care homes and struggles to develop trusting relationships with others. She has a boyfriend, Jack, and she is a vegetarian. Throughout the novel, her friendship with 91-year-old Vivian Daly transforms her ability to connect with others and accept herself.

Molly Ayer Quotes in Orphan Train

The Orphan Train quotes below are all either spoken by Molly Ayer or refer to Molly Ayer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the William Morrow edition of Orphan Train published in 2013.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The charms are all she has left of what used to be her life.

Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:
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Even after getting into trouble like this and probably getting sent away, she knows she’d never have asked Jack to buy the book. If there is one thing she hates most about being in the foster care system, it’s this dependence on people you barely know, your vulnerability to their whims. She has learned not to expect anything from anybody.

Related Characters: Molly Ayer, Jack
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

Dina purses her lips and cocks her head, clearly trying to gauge whether Molly’s praise is sincere. Well, Dina, Molly thinks, it is and it isn’t. Thank you for taking me in and feeding me. But if you think you can squash my ideals, force me to eat meat when I told you I don’t, expect me to care about your aching back when you don’t seem the slightest bit interested in my life, you can forget it. I’ll play your fucking game. But I don’t have to play by your rules.

Related Characters: Molly Ayer, Dina Thibodeaus
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 13 Quotes

To her surprise, Molly feels a lump in her throat. She swallows, pushing it down. How ridiculous – an old lady gives her a moldy book she has no use for, and she chokes up. She must be getting her period.

Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 19 Quotes

He’s always making excuses – “She didn’t mean nothing by it,” “She’s yanking your chain” – when Dina does things like intone “the Tribe has spoken” when Molly expresses an opinion. “You need to stop taking yourself so seriously, little girl,” Dina said when Molly asked her to knock it off. “If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re going to have a very hard life.”

Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 20 Quotes

Maybe it’ll be a stretch to find drama in Vivian’s portage – a happy, stable life does not an interesting story make, right? But even the rich have their problems, or so Molly’s heard. It will be her task to extract them.

Related Symbols: Portaging
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 21 Quotes

“Well,” Molly says, “I think the boat represents what you take with you – the essential things – from place to place. And the water – well, I think it’s the place you’re always trying to get to.”

Related Characters: Molly Ayer (speaker), Vivian Daly / Niamh Power / “Dorothy”
Related Symbols: Portaging
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 27 Quotes

But over and over, Molly begins to understand as she listens to the tapes, Vivian has come back to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments. They are with us in the grocery store as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them through our soles.

Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 33 Quotes

“Ah, well,” Vivian says. “I suppose we all come under false pretenses one way or another, don’t we?”

Related Characters: Vivian Daly / Niamh Power / “Dorothy” (speaker), Molly Ayer
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 38 Quotes

She can sleep with the door open, wander around freely, come and go without someone watching her every move. She hadn’t realized how much of a toll the years of judgment and criticism, implied and expressed, had taken on her. It’s as if she’s been walking on a wire, trying to keep her balance, and now, for the first time, she is on solid ground.

Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 40 Quotes

Sitting in the rocker in the kitchen, looking out at the water, Molly feels oddly at peace. For the first time since she can remember, her life is beginning to make sense. What up until this moment has felt like a random, disconnected series of unhappy events she now views as necessary steps in a journey toward… enlightenment is perhaps too strong a word, but there are others, less lofty, like self-acceptance and perspective.

Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Molly touches Vivian’s shoulder, frail and bony under her thin silk cardigan. She half turns, half smiles, her eyes brimming with tears. Her hand flutters to her clavicle, to the silver chain around her neck, the claddagh charm – those tiny hands clasping a crowned heart: love, loyalty, friendship – a never-ending path that leads away from home and circles back.

Page Number: 273
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Molly Ayer Character Timeline in Orphan Train

The timeline below shows where the character Molly Ayer appears in Orphan Train. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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
A seventeen-year-old girl, Molly Ayer, is in her bedroom, listening to her foster parents argue through the walls. Her... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
Molly describes Jack’s background: His Dominican father abandoned his white mother and returned to his country.... (full context)
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
Jack calls. Molly nonchalantly tells him that when Dina found out Molly was arrested for stealing a library... (full context)
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Dina angrily calls for Molly to come out of her room, so she and Jack hang up. In the living... (full context)
Chapter 2: Spruce Harbor Maine, 2011
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
Jack drives Molly to meet Vivian Daly. Molly is surprised to see that Vivian lives in a well-tended... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Jack’s mother, Terry, greets Molly. Molly knows that Terry only agreed to arrange the service project for Jack’s sake. In... (full context)
Chapter 7: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
Jack picks Molly up from Vivian’s house. When he asks her how the interview went, she expresses reservations... (full context)
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At home that night, Dina serves hamburger helper, “refusing to acknowledge” that Molly is vegetarian. Dina is staunchly Republican, which “wouldn’t be a problem” if she didn’t ridicule... (full context)
Chapter 8: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
...died eight years ago, leaving her alone in a house with fourteen bedrooms. Terry leads Molly and Vivian up to the attic. Seeing all of her boxes, Vivian jokes that other... (full context)
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
In the first box, Vivian is moved to find a child’s mustard-yellow coat. She tells Molly that she “always hated it.” Inside the pocket is a folded piece of paper with... (full context)
Chapter 13: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
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After one week, Molly realizes that Vivian isn’t throwing out anything in the attic. Vivian talks about things and... (full context)
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Molly is with Jack in his car. She is sitting on his lap, facing him in... (full context)
Chapter 14: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
On a day off from school, Molly decides to visit Vivian’s house early to “knock out” extra community service hours. Vivian knows... (full context)
Chapter 19: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
Molly is meeting with Lori, her social worker. Lori is energetic and direct. She reminds Molly... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
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Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
At dinner that night, Ralph and Molly discuss her community service project. He says he’s been to Vivian’s house before to do... (full context)
Chapter 20: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
In Molly’s American History class, they are learning about the Wabanaki Indians. The teacher, Mr. Reed, explains... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Molly recalls her own childhood. She remembers having to “forage” for food in the refrigerator, her... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
On Molly’s eighth birthday, she and her mother celebrated with ice cream sandwiches and a Sara Lee... (full context)
Chapter 21: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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Self and Identity Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Late on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, Vivian and Molly sit together in the living room. Molly begins describing her school project. She explains the... (full context)
Chapter 26: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
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One day when Molly arrives, Vivian greets her with unusual energy, announcing that there isn’t time for a cup... (full context)
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Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
One day in Molly’s American History class, a student named Tyler Baldwin comments in response to a film about... (full context)
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Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Jack and Molly are eating lunch outside at school. Lately Molly has been spending much more time with... (full context)
Chapter 27: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Trauma and Loss Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Molly decides to help Vivian “find peace” by finding answers to the “mysteries” in her story.... (full context)
Chapter 32: Spruce Harbor, Maine
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Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
Molly has prepared a vegetarian stir-fry. She’s begun cooking recently as a way of helping Dina... (full context)
Chapter 33: Spruce Harbor, Maine
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
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Before Molly leaves, Ralph offers her pocket money, a ride, and help with packing. Molly turns him... (full context)
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Vivian makes tea and tucks Molly into a chair with a quilt. Vivian asks Molly to share what’s going on. Molly... (full context)
Chapter 37: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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Secrets, Reality, and Illusions Theme Icon
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Vivian has just finished telling Molly about her baby, May. They are going through a trunk with Dutchy’s possessions and the... (full context)
Chapter 38: Spruce Harbor, Maine 2011
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When Molly wakes up in the morning, she is surprised to find the ocean outside her window.... (full context)
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A couple days later, Molly texts Ralph, telling him that she is safe with Vivian. Ralph calls and demands that... (full context)
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Terry isn’t pleased when she discovers Molly staying at Vivian’s house. Vivian tells her that she “invited” Molly to stay and that... (full context)
Chapter 39: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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At their next meeting, Lori the social worker notices that Molly has removed the “skunk stripe” from her hair and toned down her look. She reviews... (full context)
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Molly settles into life at Vivian’s and starts helping Terry with her chores. One day, Vivian... (full context)
Chapter 40: Spruce Harbor, Maine, 2011
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Molly finds a national adoption registry online and mails in Vivian’s registration forms along with a... (full context)
Belonging and Connection Theme Icon
Self and Identity Theme Icon
Safety and Survival Theme Icon
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Hope and Skepticism Theme Icon
...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... (full context)