Newport Librarians's Reviews > Train Dreams

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
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's review
Jul 31, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: adult-fiction, librarian-s-favorites, current-fiction

There's nothing like a novel that's so concise you can finish in a couple days, yet still makes you feel like you've experienced decades of American life. Train Dreams is the story of one nondescript man named Robert Grainier. He doesn't really know who his parents were, and while he once made it as far as the Pacific Ocean, most of his experiences are limited to the Idaho panhandle, where he works with loggers for the railroad. The book opens in 1917 and ends in the 1960s, and consists largely of various powerful, yet understated scenes from Grainier's life.

Yes, it's about trains, and dreams, and the American stuff they conjure up: the west, the yearning for freedom, opportunity, love, toil, misery. It feels like it takes place a century earlier, and so makes you think and rethink about the experiences of your grandparents, and great-parents, and the people they knew.

I loved the writing. It's a little like Hemingway: brilliantly written but not ostentatious.

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