Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell

In June 1968 Robert Kennedy's funeral was held in New York. Afterward, his casket, his family and friends, the press and others were carried by train to Washington, D.C. where he was buried near his brother, President John F. Kennedy. This novel's core is that train and what Bobby's death meant to Americans, using the stories of six characters who view the event from different perspectives.

Anyone who remembers 1968 knows what a devastating impact Bobby's murder had on us as a nation. It seemed like the world was off its axis; first the president, then Dr. Martin Luther King, and finally Bobby Kennedy. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was frightened, thinking that our best leaders were being assassinated one after another. What would become of us?

We all, regardless of party affiliation felt terrible for Ethel Kennedy and the children, especially the child yet to be born who would never know his father.

These characters reflect those feelings. A mother crying for Ethel and the children, a Vietnam vet who came home missing a leg, a young black man working his first day as a conductor assigned to that very train, a boy who has just been returned to his mother after being kidnapped by his father, and others. All are affected in different ways, most realize what a momentous tragedy it is.

I liked this book but wasn't thrilled about the way it was written. Having said that, I don't know how the author would have done it any other way. It is definitely worth reading.


  1. Barbara, this one is near the top of my queue. I've had it for a couple months now, and really am anxious to get into it. I'm glad you liked, but I can understand how the format may have been hard to follow.

  2. It's worth a bit of confusion in the beginning, Tina, for those of us who remember that day so well.

  3. Thanks for the review Barbara. After hearing about the book on a radio show last week I ordered it and now I find myself reading reviews in anticipation. The show, The Book Report, doesnt air in Pennsylvania, but host Elaine Charles is just great. I just catch the show in the archives on their website at www.bookreportradio.com