This Train Review
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In the autumn of 1935, Sam Carnehan meets a young lady in men’s clothing in the train yard. He doesn’t know where she rode the lines from or where she was headed, but he figures he’d better offer her some sort of protection, which she clearly doesn’t want or even appear to need.

When the cook comes around asking for contributions for the soup pot, she has nothing to offer, except for her singing voice. She sings everything from gospel to traditional folk music, stunning those around her—including Sam. She shouldn’t be a hobo hoping trains. Her voice should easily earn her a living.

Though she’s clearly not his type—she’s a skinny white female, and he’s a half black, half white street boxer known as Killer—Sam is still fascinated by her. One night, as he’s fighting a young man half his age, she shows up and works the crowd, stealing wallets from unsuspecting spectators. That night, he buys her supper and a room for the night. She won’t tell him her name (“George will do just fine”), but she asks him to go to New Orleans with her. Something there scares her down to her soul, but she has no other choice but to go back.

Earning money with his street fights and her singing, they head to New Orleans, where they must both face a past they’d rather leave dead and buried.

This Train is one of the best books I’ve read all year. With a little bit of romance, a little bit of mystery, and a whole lot of early 19th century southern ambiance, this story reaches deep and latches on tight.

Author Rachel Smith knows how to bring her characters to life. Each one has a discernable personality—and they’re so well developed that I could picture each one in my mind as I read.

“George” has a well of strength, but there is also a softness and vulnerability about her that reaches out to Sam. Sam is a confident and sturdy man, even though he doesn’t fit in either the black or white world. Instead, he’s somewhere in between, where it can get lonely.

Though readers follow George and Sam through towns and vexing situations, what might happen in New Orleans adds even more suspense to the plot. As you read, you’ll want more for these two characters, but you’re never sure whether things will get better for this strong-willed couple.

Because the Depression Era comes to light through the lives of George and Sam—and the flavor of 1935 New Orleans shines through—This Train is destined to become a beloved classic.

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