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Robert Grainer is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the 20th century—an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West—its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders—the new novella by the National Book Award-winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.
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By Geoff on 02-15-12
A compact epic
Lyricism that's reminiscent of James Lee Burke and Faulkner, and is therefore right in narrator Will Patton's wheelhouse. A novella of the opening and closing of the American West that can be enjoyed without "worldly interests intervening...[to] modify, annul or counteract...the impressions of the book," to quote Anthony Doerr (quoting Poe) in the New York Times.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Louis on 06-20-12
2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist
The novella begins and ends with cries to others, in between Robert Granier is usually alone in the Pacific Northwest.
Why four and not five? A few word choices took me out of Robert Grainer's introspection, during shifts between descriptions of the valley and Granier’s thoughts, and the narrative leaps were jarring at times.
Will Patton does an excellent job. His voice is weary, optimistic, intelligent, detached. But this is a laconic open man, and while the characterizations are distinctive, Patton’s voice is better suited for Saigon (“Tree of Smoke”), New Orleans (James Lee Burke) or Manhattan (“Cosmopolis”).
(Train Dreams was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. For the first time since the 1970s, there was no award for Fiction.)
A complaint: the cover is a desaturated Thomas Hart Benton-like scene, a race between horse and Iron Horse across the dull lumpy prairie. It is misleading. The train dreams are not those of man against machine; this is not John Henry. I interpreted the title as a command: train your dreams.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful