This is a gripping, gritty account of truth as fiction. It disproves the theory that truth is stranger than fiction and teaches a new lesson. Fiction tells the truth more truthfully than the truth.
I wrote my own book detailing my abusive childhood as narrative nonfiction and have developed a reputation of being an expert on abuse. I was leery when someone suggested this book, doubting the value a fiction book would bring to this subject. The person who suggested it was right, and I was totally wrong.
The basic premise of The Night Train is abuse, and it most certainly will hurt your heart as you read it, but the child abuse part of the book is remarkably subtle. Understated might be a better word, but with that understatement Carl reveals his genius.
The book covers all the emotions I endured as a severely abused child with absolute clarity. Emotions like the despair of being abused by one parent, who seems to revel in your misery, as the other parent who sees the beatings blames you for the injuries that will not allow you to get up from the floor. Do not forget the deep shame and soul smothering abuse perpetrated by bullies. As you struggle to survive each day those around you recognize the fact that you are defeated, and like other animals they attack relentlessly as if trying to eradicate the weak and wounded. Also, the teachers and other people in positions of authority are equally cruel as they struggle to ignore something they see, but which is a thing they have no control over. For a lack of any other solution the abused shoulders the shame and blame, turning school, church and other venues that are traditionally considered safe havens for children into unimaginable hells that are extensions of the hell waiting at home.
Carl carefully paints all this pain into this extraordinary work of fiction with seamless effort. Suggesting that he too has a deep personal relationship with abuse, I expect he is a fellow survivor and commend him for lending his heart to such a cause.
The book, while threaded with the important facets of child abuse is not actually centered or more aptly a slave to that subject. It is the story of Jayrod Nash, a young boy who although being abused still has the dreams that all children have. The book might be more accurately portrayed as a great train adventure. Once again Carl proves his worth as a writer and covers the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Jayrod as he embarks on a journey meant to not only save himself, but a journey that will allow him to survive his childhood while developing skills that will allow him to survive his manhood.
Every young boy dreams of a life on the rails of America, you will most certainly enjoy reading about Jayrod’s American odyssey. I too decided to take to the rails at the age of ten, but chickened out. I lived that fantasy vicariously through Jayrod and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. This is what writing is about, thank you for allowing me to take such a wonderful journey.
My own abuse ended with the death of my abuser, Jayrod escapes in a much different way. The book does have a happy ending, one that will allow Carl to write a sequel about Jayrod’s struggle as he grows. It will be a story of spending dozens of years or an entire lifetime to overcome what it took less than a decade to create.
I have no idea if Carl plans such a book or is aware of its potential, but I’m here to whisper it into his ear. “Hey Carl you could write a kick butt sequel to this.”
Would I read this book again? In a heartbeat, if not for an unusually busy week I would have read it in one setting. I read three books a week while commuting on trains. I think that qualifies me to give a pretty fair account of books with the exception of my own. After struggling through half of Moby Dick, I removed my book marker to keep it from killing itself, closed the book and immediately turned and gave it to someone on the train, I didn’t dare give it someone I knew. Ten pages into a William Faulkner book, I took it back to the library to keep myself from killing myself. I devoured The Night Train. I can’t wait to read further works by Carl, one of the newest budding Mississippi writers.