This is my first Cannonball read and I can’t believe I picked a book–sort of at random, I admit–that I love this much. It’s a story of the Northwest frontier at the turn of the twentieth century so lumberjacks, railroad laborers, miscreants, drunks, and a few coyotes and wolves are par for the course. But there’s also a (maybe real/maybe an apparition) wolf-girl and a sort of carnival side-show version of a wolf-boy. In a book that’s just 125 pages long.
I’ve never read anything by Denis Johnson before, and when I look at the descriptions of his other (very well-reviewed and award-winning) books, I’m not sure I would have been inclined to pick up most of them. Now I can’t wait to read another.
The description of Train Dreams appealed to me immediately because it promised to be one of those classic tales of the American West: Solitude. Wilderness. Big skies and big mountains.
Well, it is that sort of vaguely familiar story, but realized in a powerful new way. Dreams play a big role, as you might expect from the title. The language is plain and poetic at the same time. The cast of characters is fascinating–from the protagonist, Robert Grainier, his wife and infant daughter, down to the most fleeting supporting characters, even those Grainier only meets for a moment, when they’re on the verge of death.
I can’t really imagine throwing around 5 stars for many of the 52 books this year, but am so glad I found this 5-worthy book on my first outing. I’d give it 10, if I could. And a big thanks and shout out to Austin Kleon’s wonderful blog, which is where I got the recommendation. Longer review is here.