This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed!

Book No: 21

Train Dreams


Denis Johnson


Robert Grainier’s life began in 1886 and ended in 1968. The novella by Denis Johnson follows Robert from his troubled childhood when he is sent by train out West to live with relatives he doesn’t know. He leads a hard-scrabble life during changing times. He works as a lumberer and a hauler. Determined to start over when he loses his wife and daughter he returns to the ruins of the home he had built for them.

Robert is a man of few words and, because of his stoic personality, it is hard to feel his emotion but there is a good sense of it. His actions speak of his affection and mourning for his wife and daughter.  There is a mystical element to the story which the reader could interpret in several ways.

Johnson gives a good view of life in the Northwest at the turn of the century and the changes that Robert witnesses. He takes a ride in an airplane and decides that isn’t for him. He uses the train and horses for transportation long after the advent of the automobile. He views the changing landscape of the land and is more accepting than embracing of change.

Johnson’s writing style is lean and entertaining.

Train Dreams is the winner of the National Book Award.


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