By The Minter on January 25, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you are my age, then you probably remember exactly what you were doing when the Twin Towers came down. I was at my part-time job at my college campus. Fortunately, I was not, like the protagonist of Neil Newton's fast-paced thriller The Railroad, anywhere near a New York metro. As claustrophobic as I am, I would had a massive panic attack. And like the out-of-service metro, Newton's novel entrapped me to where I was unable to escape until I reached the end of the line.
Mike Dobbs is a top Wall Street executive whose world is turned upside when he is trapped in a metro car with other panicking passengers for thirty minutes. Afterwards, suffering from PTSD from being trapped and from the terrorist attacks in general, Mike decides to leave New York City and stay in his country home in upstate. He thinks the quiet and solitude would ease his mind, but it isn't long before he is contacted by Elena, a former flame who runs The Railroad, an organization that helps battered women and children escape to safety. He grudgingly agrees to host Eileen and her daughter Megan for a few days, and after an initial rocky start, the mother and daughter began to grow on him. With Eileen's sadistic husband Bob on their trials, the pair leave. Mike is upset, but his concerns quickly take a turn when Bob begins a campaign of psychological torment against Mike, and worse, the authorities are reluctant to get involved. For his own safety and for that of Eileen and Megan, Mike is forced to take matters into his own hands. Along the way, becoming increasingly stressed and paranoid, Mike's sanity slowly begins to crumble.
Although this book is in need of a round of editing and a reformatting, the plot pacing and character development easily outweigh these issues. This is a suspense thriller that will keep you on the edge of you seat, and the reader will gladly go along with Mike on his journey through all seven circles to find his foster family. The tale of the doomed pair, told against the backdrop of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is satisfying on many levels. The ending is a bit unusual and can be confusing if you don't read carefully. Overall, I recommend this book a hundred times over.
By Anita Kovacevic on January 10, 2016
This book was recommended to me by a friend who knows I like to read serious books. And this is not a fun, beach, snack book. This is a serious meal you need to sink your teeth into and think. The author has decided to tackle plenty of important, real life situations, and it's far easier to dig our heads into reality shows than deal with reality.
As you follow the developments in the life of Mike Dobbs, his transformations and turbulence, cleverly told in first person, you will question his decisions, go with him through his 9-11 experience (excellent scene in the subway and consequences mentioned subsequently), a bitter, cold, dying relationship, utter depression and then - the unexpected change. When Mike drinks, when he is insensitive to the Dennis or Barbara, when he thinks of how to get rid of Eileen and Megan, he is what he is, a traumatised average man hardened by the alienation of modern life, yet doomed to reluctant kindness, generosity and heroism when face to face with a person in real trouble. It's the damaged souls guiding damaged souls, like the blind leading the blind, but still sticking together. There is good in us humans, despite the bad in us. Mike is the kind of hero I like - almost an antihero, an accidental hero who never sees himself as such because he himself is so rundown and empty that even the author makes no excuses for him. All the characters are realistic and intriguing, even the five-second appearances (the girl in the cybercafe, the innkeeper couple in a small town), and their psychology is really well-expressed, shown, not preached. I will not divulge my favourites to avoid spoilers.
The cover itself is not a compromising one - there is no couple to inspire romantic notions, although a huge portion of the story deals with relationships - romantic, family and friendships. There is no blood gushing, although the story is far from a gentle one. The title is not only an important literal image in the story, but also a metaphor, and the railroad puns and analogies woven into the plot have been placed there naturally, almost unnoticeably, yet emphasizing the message, using both the positive and negative connotations of it (travelling, discovering your paths, traditional settings, as opposed to being derailed, railroaded, cheated and defeated, whether by cunning or violence, etc.)
The initial chapters are not your average writing style and popular writers' vernacular, which grabbed my attention with plenty of interesting lines and expressions, which obviously come naturally and follow the events without distracting the reader. This style blends into more action in the second part of the book, as the story itself twists and turn that way. I enjoyed the excellent, flowing dialogues, quite an original line of thinking, and blending dialogue and character's thoughts seamlessly yet clearly defined. The language flows with impact, sometimes even like an old black-and-white detective movie or even a movie done in comic-book style.
The Railroad is a book not easily-digested, because of the topic - heavy, gruesome subjects people want to avoid but need to talk about and read about. You will want to drop it at times, because it might hit too close to home, but as soon as you put it down, you will want to get back to it. You will want to see how it turns out. Alienation, terrorism, child abuse, disfunctional marriages, detached relationships, dying friendships, inadequacy in the simplest intimate situations, post-traumatic stress, loneliness, disregard for common decency, system failures, bribe and the cowardice of laws, alcoholism, conformity... There are no comic reliefs, the readers will not be pampered with easily-digestible scenes or easy, rose-coloured romance, and Mike's battle is constant and relentless. At times there is even an unusual, erratic pace of telling events, showing the mess in Mike's mind and soul, all strongly tied into the plot as the web thickens towards the end. After the entire ordeal, you will wonder whether Mike continued the search out of bravery, stubborness, pure love, madness or the simple need for closure. But hang in there - like life, it is all worth it. There is nothing average about Mike - the average person stays away or gives in. Mike doesn't.
The ending might surprise you, and goes to prove that the most unlikely heroes, the ones who don't go looking for it, are the ones who do chage the world, one act at a time. There is a slight feeling of bitterness and injustice, knowing Mike's sacrifice. But then again, the loveliest roses need thorns.
Mrs Michelle Nora Medhat on October 13, 2015 A story of a man emerging from the wreckage that 9/11 made of his life, may not sound the most enticing premise for a story. Indeed, it may appear quite self-indulgent and depressing, but The Railroad is not such a book. Mr Newton has written an explosive and emotionally-charged tome that tugged with continuous regularity at my heart strings.
Mike Dobbs, the lead character is a survivor of the catastrophic tragedy of 9/11. Caught in the subway just underneath the Twin Towers at the time of the attack, it is soon apparent that Dobbs is anything but a survivor. Half of him has been shattered to pieces, and the other half is guilty he's still alive, when so many he knew perished. He has a void inside that can’t be filled despite Dobbs’ attempts to fill it with copious amounts of alcohol. It leads him to face a sudden reality, his life is futile and pathetic. His Wall Street raider persona is stripped away ruthlessly by the dust of the blast, and what remains is a husk barely comprehending a meaning to life beyond the bottom of a bottle of Laphroaig. His job, love life and friends are left behind as Dobbs heads for a life in the ‘burbs of Bardstown, and his weekend retreat bought with his yuppie money. A place as ugly as his own soul has become.
Whilst Dobbs descends in to his own purgatory, chilling abductions of parents running from spouses who have abused their sons/daughters are detailed. They are interlaced into the story with a jarring frequency that takes the reader out of the mind-set of someone coping with PTSD. This story is much greater than that. Mr Newton’s excellent story-telling skills weave a story of complexity and intrigue, to keep the pages turning. This is not a second-guess book, as there are gear shifts continuously, forcing new hypotheses to emerge; new considerations to be sought.
Mike Dobbs is a man going through a transformation, and the stages of that change state are brought to life with vivid and immersive description. There are times when reading The Railroad that I felt the frustration that Dobbs experienced when all the legal doors were closed. Not giving any spoilers away, but Dobbs faces down a sick and evil individual with courage and given the fact he’s drunk most of the time, a show of smart, incisive thinking. This capability is borne out of necessity. Dobbs is on a crusade to save the lives of those he loved but for a fleeting moment. Intrinsic to his transformation to a state of inner peace, is a journey that Dobbs goes on, into the wilderness that is the Maine, to save his loved ones and at the same time, himself.
An extraordinary journey with an amazing denouement. A note to Mr Newton’s genius is the change of voice at the end. A nuance that may be lost in the melee of the final realisation, but one which exemplifies the change point beautifully. A stunning debut novel and one that I highly recommend. I look forward to reading more from Mr Newton in the future.
By Glen Barrera on September 3, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified PurchaseThis book came as a surprise. Sure, I saw the cover, read the blurb, but didn’t expect the quality of the writing or the clever storyline. When an old girlfriend calls Mike Dobbs, a successful Wall Street mover and shaker, and asks for money to get her and her daughter away from an abusive husband, he agrees. And so begins The Railroad. What works in this story is the effective way the author uses the tragedy of 9/11, and the trauma of Mike Dobbs, who finds himself stuck on a subway train as the buildings collapse, to detail Mike’s gradual, alcoholic decline. Living by himself in his beaten-down country house, wallowing in depression and single malt, another phone call will bring a mother and daughter, running from her husband, into his life. The Railroad picks up steam as Mike attempts to relate to his new housemates. I also liked the way Newton unfolds the legal issues of women who suspect their husbands of child abuse, and a stifling court system that forces many to search for illegal alternatives – like The Railroad. The story is paced well and there were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing and turning pages. The writing, at times, reminded me of DeMille. All in all, I really liked, and would recommend, this book.
By Mark Fine on August 31, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionThere are times it takes great courage to write, especially when the events are personal—a major human-made catastrophe. Add to it a fictional focus is on the bleaker side of the human condition, and you have a book steeped with gravitas. This certainly is the case in author, Neil Newton’s tough novel, The Railroad. Unflinchingly he takes on two biggies: First, the devastating destruction of the Twin Towers. This shattered the psyche of a nation, a city, and countless individuals, including the leading character at the epicenter of the story. 9/11 was an impersonal attack by virulent strangers, tainted with a flawed ideology that showed no concern for their victims.
But the author also faces down another scourge that is immensely more personal. The abuse of spouse and child by someone who intimately knew them, someone bound by marriage vows and decency to protect them under his roof, but chose instead to be their intimate predator.
The decision by Mr. Newton write this intriguing book in the first person is extremely effective. It gives the novel an inescapable sense of immediacy, and doesn’t allow our protagonist Mike Dobbs to hide his flaws. Unflinchingly through his eyes we experience each misstep, each misgiving and every hangover. This is consistent with Dobbs’ emotional decline as a result of his narrow escape down in the depths of the subway system when the Twin Towers collapsed about him. The once go-go ambitious New Yorker is instantly a shell of his former self, echoing much of the dislocation experienced by his fellow Manhattan dwellers. From the perspective of Dobbs we witness the unrelenting decay of his life, an understandable consequence of his dramatic 9/11's near death experience—but his wife and friends don’t quite get it. Too much drinking, fractured relationships and spiraling depression become his pattern. Not pretty.
Then circumstances deliver two strangers to his doorstep; there stands a mother and her seven year old daughter, both on the run from a narcissistic man who was meant to have protected them, instead he’d abused them. Though never invited into the cesspool Dobbs’ is compelled to get involved. Dobbs finds himself now facing an immediate villain, immensely more tangible compared to the faceless terrorists that had harmed his nation. With a new sense of purpose Mike Dobbs’ discovers that by necessity his reclusive ways are a thing of the past. As strangers seeking shelter under his roof, the mother/ daughter pair had given Dobbs a gift; they’d reignited his interest in life. Yes, Mike Dobbs had finally begun to care again.
All that was wonderful, until one day Eileen and Megan disappeared.
Without being heavy handed, author Neil Newton allows the pall of post 9/11 New York City to permeate the pages of the book—cleverly. In order that the reader would better appreciate the suffocating portrayal of abuse he uses the 9/11 catastrophe to embody the collective violation we as a nation had felt that ghastly day. In this way, though thankfully never explicit, the author succeeds in atmospherically giving us a sense of Eileen and Megan’s horror and desperation. And it’s through this veil of horror and the bottom of a bourbon glass, the ill-prepared Dobbs, is driven to right the awful wrong inflicted on the two girls he has learned to love. And so his quest begins to find the missing Eileen and her daughter Megan—and combat the unwanted attentions of an intimidating and dangerous ex-husband.
Sometimes nightmarishly Kafkaesque, the hunt takes Mike Dobb's up along the East Coast seaboard where he confronts cagey lawyers, hired thugs, suspicious small town citizens, and an apparent murderer systematically hunting down the female victims of abuse. Compelling stuff! I strenuously encourage other readers to join Mike Dobbs on his gritty mission to find Eileen and Megan before it’s too late. I certainly found it well worth the journey.
By Lillian Ammann (Lillie) on August 17, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionI was attracted to this book because of my interest in domestic violence, and I appreciate the way the author portrayed the horrors of domestic violence in a compelling story. While I really enjoyed the book, two things kept me from giving it five stars: more grammar and spelling errors than expected and the depiction of the crimes as "chapter and verse killings" even though there was no physical evidence that the victims were dead.
By Karen Robbins on September 2, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionNeil Newton has done a great job of character development in The Railroad. While I would prefer my heroes a little less alcoholic, the character of Mike Dobbs and how he reacts to the great changes in his life due to 9/11 and becoming involved with a woman and her daughter escaping the abuse of the little girl's father makes the drunkenness almost reasonable. There is a nice mystery wound through the pages and some suspenseful moments that keep you page turning. Nicely done. A good read.
By Jeffrey A. Burton on October 3, 2013
Format: PaperbackI read this book in 2 nights, usually I take about 3-4. Mike Dobb's journey intrigued me enough that I lost some sleep staying up reading it because I just had to know how it turned out. Dobb's journey through 9/11 was an enlightening section of the book and played into the story quite well. Then his sojourn into what abused people have to deal with is touching and scary at the same time (how many people have to do that? I'd guess more than most of us would like to admit). Although Dobb's character may be questionable at times, he's mostly a good guy and at the end of the book he makes up for any transgressions he's committed (admittedly minor ones), which was a nice touch. I like a book that cleans up after itself and this one does, yet still leaves enough mystery about it, making you want more....will Mike Dobb's journey continue in another book? Let's hope so!
By CinnamonHensel on July 31, 2012
Format: PaperbackVery compelling novel. Where the editing falls short, the story sores. Neil Newton, quickly drew me into his New York world and the terror of 9/11. His tackling of the big issues of abuse, were very well written. His description of New York and New England made me want to get into my car and go on a road trip. Best of all is how he ties everything together in the end. Great character writing all around. I can't wait for his next novel.