Thursday Book Feature: The Christmas Train

Don’t ask why my group chose a Christmas book to discuss in March. At least you’ll have something to put on your December reading list. Merry Christmas, three months late or nine months early, depending on how you look at it.

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The Christmas Train
Baldacci, David.
Copyright 2002.

After being put on the no-fly list as a result of a confrontation with the airlines, journalist Tom decides to travel by train across the country from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles and write about it. In L.A., he plans to spend Christmas with his current girlfriend, Lilia, an actress. Along the way, he meets an eccentric old lady, a retired priest, a movie director, and then his former girlfriend Eleanor. Things get even more interesting when Lilia boards the train in Kansas City. Other events including the discovery of a naked man sleeping in one of the coach cars, a series of robberies, and a blizzard make this a hilarious, heartwarming holiday tale with two interesting revelations at the end.

This was another book that was hard to put down. I was right there on the train with Tom, Eleanor, and the other characters, yet thankful to be safe in my recliner at home when the train encountered an avalanche. I definitely recommend The Christmas Train as a great holiday read.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Review: The Paddy Stories: Book One

The Paddy Stories: Book One

by John Justice

Copyright 2016.

 

In Philadelphia in 1947, eight-year-old Paddy Flynn, who is blind, has lost his father as a result of World War II. He is then orphaned when his mother dies after a long illness. He spends time in a children’s home where he befriends a Japanese boy, who teaches him Judo, so he can stand up for himself when confronted by the home’s bully. He also develops a special bond with Lucy, another resident at the home.

Meanwhile, his uncle and aunt in Oakland, California, go through proceedings to adopt him. Once those arrangements are made, Paddy is sent to them by train. Along the way, he relies on the kindness of strangers, who travel with him most of the time. In California, his uncle and aunt, having no children, welcome him with open arms and treat him as if he were their own son. He eventually looks upon them as if they were his parents.

He adjusts to life with his new family, and by some miraculous twist of fate, he’s reunited with Lucy, but they are separated, temporarily, at the end of the book when Paddy is sent to the California school for the blind in Berkeley. The book also contains sub-plots involving other children and staff at the home in Philadelphia, but their stories end more happily than Paddy’s does.

When I first ran across this book, I thought it was for children, but further perusal told me otherwise. It tells the story of a little boy, and parents could read it to their children, but there are scenes that might not be appropriate for younger readers.

I met this book’s author, John Justice, through the Behind Our Eyes writers’ group, to which I belong. This book was produced by David and Leonore Dvorkin of Denver, Colorado, who are also helping me get My Ideal Partner published online. Leonore is quite the publicist. I probably wouldn’t have known about John’s book if she hadn’t mentioned it in almost every email message she sent me regarding my book.

I was prepared for a horror story about a poor little blind boy, beaten and taken advantage of in a society that held little respect for persons with disabilities, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even in the children’s home, where I expected a “Miss Hannagan” like in the movie, Annie, staff and other children were friendly and helpful. I was amazed when a nun showed up at the home and offered to ride with Paddy on the train to Chicago, where a local church formed a network of volunteers, who rode with Paddy in stages the rest of the way, until he reached his destination.

Of course no story would be a good one without conflict, and there’s plenty of that here: one bully at the children’s home, another on the train, and a third in California, not to mention the California school for the blind’s policy that all students must be residents at the school during the week. Paddy, though, is not one to be considered a poor little blind boy. When his mother became ill, she instilled in him the importance of being independent, knowing she wouldn’t be able to care for him much longer. He takes everything in stride, and although he cries himself to sleep in the California school’s dormitory at the end of the book, there’s a glimmer of hope. I’m looking forward to seeing what Book Two will bring.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems