The Christmas Train (David Baldacci)

There is something enchanting about a train ride experience. And this is a pleasing Christmas read that takes place on a cross-country train trip from Washington DC to Los Angeles. It has fun settings, train facts and interesting characters. I am really impressed by this story. Reading like an old b& w film, our middle-aged hero wants to gain some peace and encounters romance, mystery, humour and adventure during his soul-searching journey.

Tom Langdon is a retired, disillusioned war correspondent and is now back in the USA writing articles for domestic magazines – or covering teen beauty pageants. After a “misunderstanding” at airport security he is forced to travel from Washington DC to Los Angeles by train this Christmas. Unable to escape this situation, he decides to undertake his father’s dying wish and finish a transcontinental railroad story started, but not completed, by his distant relative, Mark Twain! Thus begins a journey not only from coast to coast but also into Tom Langdon’s heart as he is unexpectedly reunited with his past on the train: the love of his life, ex-girl friend, Eleanor, just happens to be a fellow passenger. Is this a coincidence?

This is an extraordinary portrait of life for people working and travelling on long distance trains. As it is coming up to Christmas when this story starts the festive atmosphere is unmistakable. David Baldacci is masterful at drawing the characters and describing how their close proximity can lead to some very interesting encounters. It is a funny, poignant and dramatic tale, all at the same time. I just love the ending which, when I read it for the first time, was so unexpected. First published in 2002, this tale stands the test of time and is a classic Christmas yarn. If you want something with a great feel good factor then The Christmas Train is a must for you. The ending was unexpected but overall a quick and enjoyable read. It doesn’t disappoint, and at 260 pages, it doesn’t out stay its welcome.

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