The Train of Small Mercies
By David Rowell
(Putnam Adult, Hardcover, 9780399157288, 272pp.)
Publication Date: October 13, 2011
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In haunting and crystalline prose, The Train of Small Mercies follows six characters' intrepid search for hope among the debris of an American tragedy.
In New York, a young black porter struggles through his first day on the job-a staggering assignment aboard Robert F. Kennedy's funeral train. In Pennsylvania, a woman creates a tangle of lies to sneak away from her disapproving husband and pay her respects to the slain senator, dragging her child with her. In Maryland, a wounded young soldier awaits a newspaper interview that his parents hope will restore his damaged self-esteem. And in Washington, an Irish nanny in town to interview with the Kennedy family must reconcile the lost opportunity and the chance to start her life anew.
In this stunning debut, David Rowell depicts disparate lives united by an extraordinary commemoration, irrevocably changed as Kennedy's funeral train makes its solemn journey from New York to Washington.
David Rowell is an editor at the Washington Post Magazine. He has taught literary journalism in the MFA department at American University. An alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and their two sons. This is his first novel.
- The novel is a work of fiction based on actual events. What do we as readers gain from the way the novel is structured (state by state)? What is the significance of depicting the lives of those living in the different states during that period of history? Each character in the novel is different from the next—racially, socially, etc. Why does the author include numerous characters of various backgrounds? Do their differences play into the mood of the novel?