You can purchase Orphan Train online at Huge Bookstores.
Online ResourcesI recommend reading Orphan Train Myths and Legal Reality for an in-depth look at the facts of the orphan trains. Find the pieces that may be most relevant for your group. Perhaps your group is in one of the east coast cities and may want to discuss the economic pressures that left children neglected in Boston or New York. Or you may want to focus on the towns where the placements were made or even focus on the railroad as a placement tool for orphaned children.
Characters in Niamh’s childhood
Characters in Spruce Harbor Maine
“organizing things. So they’ll be easier to find.” page 173.As they organize the boxes, so they are organizing Vivian’s memories, memories she hasn’t shared with anyone before. Molly tells Jack,
“But I think what she really wanted was to see what was in those boxes one last time. And remember those parts of her life.” Page 256
"And though I rarely take the claddagh off, as I get older I can’t escape the realization that the only remaining part of my blood family comes from a woman who pushed her only son and his family out to sea in a boat, knowing full well she’d probably never see them again,” page 199.Where do you see her necklace as a symbol for connection to family?
Molly’s character uses the nose ring and her hair dye as two of the symbols to represent Molly’s separation from a family life. As Molly becomes more connected with Vivian and willing to share her own story, her social worker, Lori, notices that
“First the nose ring disappears. Now you’ve lost the skunk stripe.” page 261.Books are another repeated symbol. What do books symbolize in both Molly’s and Niamh’s lives? Which symbols were most memorable to you? What symbols have been touch points in your own life?
“When Vivian describes how it felt to be at the mercy of strangers, Molly nods. She knows full well what it’s like to tamp down your natural inclinations, to force a smile when you feel numb. After a while you don’t know what your own need are anymore.” page 170.Yet before Molly and Vivian share Vivian’s past with Terry and Jack, Jack and his mother find it exceedingly difficult to believe that two such different people could have anything in common.
“laughing— at the absurdity of our shared experience,” page 229.Where else in the novel do common experiences create a bond?
“In portaging from one river to another, Wabanakis had to carry their canoes and all other possessions. Everyone knew the value of traveling light and understood that it required leaving some things behind. Nothing encumbered movement more than fear, which was often the most difficult burden to surrender.”
“...about their own portages, the moments in their lives when they’ve had to take a journey, literal or metaphorical… The questions on the assignment sheet are: What did you choose to bring with you to the next place? What did you leave behind? What insights did you gain about what’s important?” page 131
“For goodness sake Raymond, it doesn’t matter what she thinks… Dorothy is our choice and Dorothy she will be.” page 72.Then when Niamh starts school in Minnesota, Niamh responds to her teacher’s roll call saying,
“I used to be Niamh. Sometimes I forget what my name is.” page 123.She goes back to using Niamh and is returned to being called Dorothy before the Nielsens ask her to take the name of their daughter, Vivian, who died of diphtheria.
“They didn’t change his name?”How does changing names affect who Niamh is and who she becomes? How does her name change affect how others know her? How is Molly’s name significant in her journey?