Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Orphan Train

Plot Summary Part 1

Molly is a 17 year old orphan in present day America. But she feels alienated so she makes herself up to look like a vampire whore. She paints her face white, dyes her hair black, and has a long skunk stripe going down the side. She also pierces every part of her body and shoves metal in the holes.

Despite her condition, Molly is excited about the idea of a boy named Jack boning her. She likes his "cow eyes". I don't know how looking like a cow makes one sexually attractive, but that's what turns Molly on.

Molly's foster mom, Dina, doesn't like having Molly in their home because of her vampire whorishness and there is friction between the two. Molly is caught stealing a library book and is sentenced to community service, in this case helping a 91 year old woman named Vivian help clean the junk out of her attic. Except Vivian is an orphan too and instead of cleaning the junk out, they simply look at it. Vivian talks about her memories of being an orphan in the 1930's and that makes Molly become more sensitive (and less like a vampire whore). There, I've just given you the basic storyline for the entire book!

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By the way, maybe you think it is unfair I am calling Molly a vampire whore. But on page 49 of the book it describes how Molly whored herself out to a tattoo artist in order to get herself further mutilated. Since she had no money to pay him she allowed him to bone her instead.

Vivian's family was Irish and came to America in the late 1920's. Originally Vivian's name was Niamh. I don't know how to pronounce it. Maybe it is Niam-h, like the hemorrhoid reducing Preparation H. Anyway a fire happened that killed all her brothers and sisters except Niamh. It is actually hard to believe that a fire would be so selective. Actually Niamh's mom survived, but she is nuts so they put her in an insane asylum and Niamh is all alone so she is put on a train, with other orphans, and shipped around the country to find foster parents who will take her in.

On the train Niamh meets a boy named Dutchy. She spends a whole day or two with him on the train but immediately falls in love with him and when they are separated, wonders what happens to him for years. Again, it is hard to believe that a 9 year old girl can fall in love (at all), and even if she can to fall in love with someone she has only known for a day or two.

Dutchy is adopted by a farmer who looks like he is looking for a workhorse, even checking Dutchy's teeth by sticking his "dirty fingers" in Dutchy's mouth, heh heh. He wants Dutchy not to have a kid but to have free farm labor.

Anyway Dutchy is let off at one town in Minnesota and then Niamh is let off at another town. She is basically sold at an auction to a woman who runs a sweatshop who is looking for free slave labor. Her name is Mrs. Byrne and she has no interest in being Niamh's mom. She also doesn't like the name Niamh, maybe because it reminds her of Preparation-H, and so calls her Dorothy. So remember, every time I say Dorothy from now on I mean Niamh. If you think this is confusing, it will only get worse.

Mrs. Byrne has Dorothy working slave labor in her little sewing machine factory making clothes for sale. She gives Dorothy very little food and actually puts a lock on the refrigerator to make sure Dorothy doesn't eat more. Dorothy is hungry and a sympathetic seamstress named Fanny, whose name is slang for ass, gives her an apple but insists she eats the apple in the smelly toilet.

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