1. On the surface, Vivian’s and Molly’s lives couldn’t be more different. In what ways are their stories similar?
Vivian’s and Molly’s lives are similar in that they both understand and know what it is like to have no control over their circumstances. Vivian, during her childhood, was at the whims of The Children’s Aid Society and Molly is at the whims of the foster care system of Maine. They also have understood the feeling of great loss, loneliness, and abandonment.
2. What role does Vivian’s grandmother play in her life? How does the reader’s perception of her shift as the story unfolds?
Vivian’s grandmother played a very crucial part in her life, but one Vivian did not recognize until she was older. In the beginning, Niamh thinks of the happy times she had with her grandmother and how her grandmother assisted her family during difficult times. As she ages, Dorothy remembers the challenges her grandmother and mother faced, the fights and arguments. But Dorothy still clung to the only item of her past, the Claddagh cross, and it’s close tie to her grandmother. When she’s much older, Vivian realizes her grandmother was the one who paid for her family’s passage to America despite knowing it would mean permanent separation.
3. Vivian’s name changes several times over the course of the novel: from Niamh Power to Dorothy Nielsen to Vivian Daly. How are these changes significant for her? How does each name represent a different phase of her life?
Each name is a new character that is put on, and with Niamh was the poor Irish girl who was orphaned and forced to travel west. Dorothy was a fresh start, of sorts. She had many struggles and challenges with the foster families who kept her. She was in an in-between world of sorts. Not part of any family but no longer the poor Irish girl. Vivian was the woman we see at the end. She knows who she is, and what she wants. She has a purpose that we do not see in the other “characters”. Each identity is taken on when the girl faces and accepts her new circumstances.