Why did I pick this book: I read this book every Christmas. It is easily one of my all-time favorite books ever. Also, this is my book group’s selection for the month of December. (I suggested it.)
Did I enjoy this book: I did. I always do. It is definitely a book that I read every free chance I get. This book has love, adventure, criminal activity, near tragedy, and it takes place at Christmas time. What more can you ask for?
The snake incident towards the end of the first half of the book always gives me a big chuckle.
The author has a good way of depicting his characters in this book. Not everyone is who they appear to be. That adds so much to this story that seems like it should be simple. Tom meets some interesting characters: Agnes Joe, a rather large woman who is one of my favorite characters especially when she elbows Tom right onto his back; Regina, a sweet woman who works for Amtrak on the Capitol Limited; Misty, the eccentric fortune teller; Father Kelly, the retired priest; Gordon Merryweather, the loud obnoxious attorney; Herrick Higgins, the laid off Amtrak train engineer; Roxanne, a loud and wonderful train worker on the Southwest Chief who is also one of my favorites. This is just a few of the many characters that formulate this story.
The only downside of this book is long descriptions about the train engines, the history of Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), and the detailed weather information for they are sometimes too long and not needed. These tend to make the book drag on those parts. But once you get past those, all is good. (They are short passages, but drag nonetheless.)
The revelation at the end is my absolute favorite. I never see it coming. Even though I have read this book every year, it still gets me by surprise and gives me the biggest smile.
Would I recommend it: Yes, absolutely.
Will I read it again: Every Christmas!
About the book – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS: Tom Langdon is a seasoned war correspondent who is now writing non-war related pieces. After an unfortunate experience with airport security, he is relegated to non-air travel for two years within the continental US. FUN! So, he decides to take a train ride across the country to visit his girlfriend for Christmas. And on this ride, he is going to write a story. Shocking, considering he is a writer.
The first leg of the trip, on the Capitol Limited, takes Tom Langdon from Washington, D.C. to Chicago. It starts as a fairly uneventful trip until he realizes that his ex-girlfriend..the one that go away…is on board the same train. Not only that, but her “boss”, the legendary film director Max Powers, forces the two ex-lovers to join forces in writing Tom’s story and Eleanor’s movie script about a train ride across the country. Of course, Eleanor is none too happy to see Tom. And Tom realizes the mistake he made letting Ellie out of his life.
During this first leg, Tom learns a lot about people and train travel. But while the train is a place where most people lose their inhibitions to an extent, it seems that it is also an ideal place for crime. A theft epidemic occurs and just about everyone on board is hit. Tom is also coaxed into being the best man for Steve who is planning on marrying his fiance, Julie, on the Southwest Chief. Steve’s parents do not approve of the marriage and at one point, when Steve is ready to call it off, Tom lays in to him with a speech that he could have said to himself when he let Eleanor get away.
The second leg of the trip, on the Southwest Chief, will take Tom from Chicago to Los Angeles. This leg is much, much more eventful. The thief also boards this train and more thefts occur. Eleanor, Max, Agnes, Misty, Father Kelly, and Kristobal are also on the Southwest Chief. Tom and his travel companions meet Roxanne, a member of the Southwest Chief crew. She is loud, a fantastic singer, and a great leader.
During this trip, a vicious snow storm is brewing and will hit the Southwest Chief’s path. Herrick Higgins is on board the Chief and he knows that the weather is not good and there will be trouble. The young couple, Steve and Julie, get married. Tom is the best man and Eleanor is the maid of honor. The wedding goes off without a hitch and it is a rocking good time thanks to Max and Roxanne.
While on the Raton Pass, the avalanche hits. Will they survive? Will the train plummet down the mountain side? What will happen to Tom and Eleanor?
I’m not going to spoil it for you. Read it…you will like it.