The basics: The Train of Small Mercies follows the lives of ordinary Americans in each state along the path of Bobby Kennedy's funeral train from Boston to his burial in Washington, D.C.
My thoughts: Bobby is one of my all-time favorite movies, and this novel takes a somewhat similar approach. The film follows numerous people in the hotel the day Bobby Kennedy was shot. To me, The Train of Small Mercies feels like a continuation of the film. Admittedly, I'm quite fond of the-day-in-the-life approach, but Rowell approached this day brilliantly and captured the spirit and energy of the time. The stories were quite varied, as were the main characters. This contrast was quite moving, as the reader gets to see a myriad of ways people felt connected to Bobby.
I was relieved the stories were mixed throughout the narrative. We lived through the day of the funeral train with different people, but we got to see their days, both the ordinary and the extraordinary. As is often the case with multiple narratives, some were most interesting than others, but all of them were emotionally
Favorite passage: "Yes, you said capturing people. Let me ask you a silly question. Why would anyone want to do that? What do you do with that, capturing a soul? You have to be really interested in people to do that sort of thing, I would imagine. Maybe that's why I'm not much of a connoisseur. I don't like art with people in it."
The verdict: The Train of Small Mercies is a moving novel. Although the characters and details are already starting to slip from my memory, the mood, power and brilliance will stick with me for a long time. Highly recommended, especially for fans of modern history and character-driven fiction.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 272 pages
Publication date: October 13, 2011
Source: publisher, via LibraryThing Early Reviews
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