Review: The Train of Small Mercies

The Train of Small Mercies

The Train of Small Mercies
By David Rowell
(Putnam Adult, Hardcover, 9780399157288, October 2011, 272pp.)

The Short of It:

Compelling and thought-provoking… The Train of Small Mercies affords us a tiny glimpse of people made somber by tragedy.

The Rest of It:

In New York, a young black porter struggles through his first day on the job-a staggering assignment aboard Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral train. In Pennsylvania, a woman creates a tangle of lies to sneak away from her disapproving husband and pay her respects to the slain senator, dragging her child with her. In Maryland, a wounded young soldier awaits a newspaper interview that his parents hope will restore his damaged self-esteem. And in Washington, an Irish nanny in town to interview with the Kennedy family must reconcile the lost opportunity and the chance to start her life anew.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this one. As the train moves through each state, you feel as if you are one of the mourners, waiting for the train to come through town. There is so much going on with these people. They all have their own challenges and somehow, they come together for this one purpose.

What I enjoyed most is that the story flows effortlessly. The story’s pace never falters and although the story’s point of view alternates between characters, the momentum is never lost. I think in part, this is due to how well-developed each storyline is. The chapters are brief, but include just the right amount of detail.

I eagerly turned the pages and enjoyed this one quite a bit. The Train of Small Mercies will appeal to all types of readers.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.

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17 thoughts on “Review: The Train of Small Mercies”

  1. This one sounds really good. It has been on my radar for awhile.

    Just sort of hovering there.

    Thank you for sharing it.

  2. I have been hearing good things about this book, and have been curious about it, but I am not sure I have reached the point where I will pull the trigger. It sounds like this is a tremendously moving read. Perhaps I will add it you my wishlist after seeing your review! Thanks!

    1. I have to be honest here. When I initially requested this book, it sounded really good to me, but when it came in the mail I was not that excited about reading it. I put it off. However, after reading just a few pages I found myself liking it a lot. It’s short, too and when I finished it, I was sad the story had ended. It may not be a book that is on everyone’s radar, but it’s a nice way to spend the afternoon.

  3. I’m eager to read this one. I hoped to get to it during the read-a-thon, but I didn’t quite make it. I loved the film Bobby, and I’m curious how this one will compare. Thanks!

  4. I usually really like these story about different people connected by one single event (e.g. Let the Great World Spin). Thanks for the tip.

    1. It’s not sad at all. I’m not sure how Bobby’s wife dealt with the tragedy in real life, but in the book…she is very matter-of-fact about the situation. The other characters are saddened over what the loss means for the nation as a whole so it’s very reflective and thoughtful.

  5. I really enjoyed your thoughts on the ‘The Train of Small Mercies’, it backs up what I heard in the interview between David Rowell and Elaine Charles on her ‘The book report’ radio show. I enjoy a book so much more when you hear about the author and his intentions about his book and interesting snippets from the book.
    I like your style of writing Ti, I can get on to your wavelength.

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