5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary and Emotional Journey
By Booklover on December 1, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Plot: In a nutshell, The Railroad is a deeply emotional story about a man traumatized by his experiences on 9/11, and his journey back from that darkness. But the story is far more than that. Mike Dobbs, the main character, sinks into alcoholism and obvious PTSD, and at times he's insufferable (in a good way). He's a incredibly detailed character of both virtues and flaws, and you can't help but root for him as he finds his way to redemption by helping an abused mother and child on the run, assisted by the mysterious "Railroad." His concern becomes love, and when they have to flee again, he faces extraordinary obstacles in the name of that love.
Strengths: The characterization is fantastic! Mike Dobbs is about as compelling a character as you can find. The story is told in 1st person, so you really get into his head, and what a jumbled, messed up head it is. At times you want to hug him, other times punch him, other times have a couple of drinks with him (he drinks this obscure scotch that I can't spell, but later becomes a plot point/clue). As a New Yorker, I especially understood Mike's specific mindset about little "New York" things that no one outside of the city would know or think about (I wouldn't even know how to go about explaining them). It's a voice that couldn't be copied by someone that didn't know the city. The supporting characters aren't quite as deep, serving more as catalysts for Mike's growth, but there's nothing wrong with that.
I loved the two settings and the contrast between them. I've lived in the city, and I've lived in Upstate NY (I'm presuming that "Bardstown" is a stand in for "Annandale-On-Hudson," the home of Bard College). Newton nailed both settings, both in the land and the people.
Weaknesses: I felt that the book was a bit too long. There are places where the plot gets redundant, especially during the middle, when he is antagonized by Benoit and searching for legal advice, It's important stuff, but could've been condensed some. There's one point where he explains the entire plot of Fahrenheit 451, which was unnecessary. The mystery wasn't particularly hard to solve, as there were only two suspects. However, Mike's trying to solve the mystery is not as important as Mike trying to heal himself through it.
Conclusion: "The Railroad" really touched me with it's portrayal of PTSD and recovery from that. The railroad in the novel isn't just a clever name to help people escape abusive spouses, it's a metaphorical vehicle that takes Mike Dobbs from a broken man (he was stuck in the subway--a literal railroad--during the WTC attack) to a rebuilt one, free of the flaws he had before that tragic day. I loved this novel.