[Ed. note: The first sentence of this review originally read, "Much like Terrance [sic] Malick’s cowardly omission of dinosaurs in trailers for Tree of Life, nowhere in Train Dreams’ marketing campaign are werewolves mentioned.” The original sentence and its change provide the context for the comment thread which follows.]
Much like the cowardly omission of dinosaurs in trailers for Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, nowhere in Train Dreams’ marketing campaign are werewolves mentioned. Yes, the dirty secret of this book is lycanthropy. I would accuse Johnson of trying cash in on some of that Twilight money but this is a hardback reissue of a novella originally published in the Paris Review in 2003.
Train Dreams concerns Robert Grainier, an average Joe by early 20th century standards. He doesn’t read a lot but he works hard logging in the American West. After a horrific tragedy, he decides to live alone though not in complete isolation. He is forced to ask himself unsurely, “Am I a hermit?” His dreams, memories, and reality become similarly fuzzy. His fears and hopes bleed into his everyday field of vision. Nothing short of The Optimist’s Daughter West, Train Dreams demands us to ask what propels us through the stream of time: our inner life, or the objective events that have shaped it?
Johnson wins again.