In the standard section, the smaller compartments ran down both sides of the car, with the aisle in the middle. Tom noticed that across this corridor were stretched a pair of hands, holding one to the other.
As he drew closer, he saw that it was the young nervous couple. They had compartments right across from one another, with the guy on the right and the girl on the left.
“Okay, do I have to pay a toll to pass through?” he said jokingly.
They both looked at him and returned the smile.
“Sorry,” the guy said, while the girl looked away shyly. They were about twenty and looked like brother and sister, with their blond hair and fair skin.
“So, on your way to Chicago for the holidays?”
“Actually,” began the young man a little sheepishly.
“Steve,” interrupted the woman, “we don’t even know him.”
“Well,” Tom said, “it’s different on a train. We’re all on this long journey together. It opens people up. I’ll go first. I’m a writer, doing a piece about a trip across the country. There’s my story, so what’s yours?”
The two looked at each other, and Steve said, “Well, actually, we’re getting married.”
Author: David Baldacci
From Goodreads: Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington D.C. to L.A in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people's essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.
The Christmas Train is filled with memorable characters who have packed their bags with as much wisdom as mischief ... and shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during this season of miracles.
Notes: It’s the ninth day of Christmas and almost the last minute for posting seasonal things, though it might have better benefited all ye readers if I’d written up this review before Christmas as I meant to. As it stands, however, if you want to wind down your holidays with a bit of pleasant, commercial light reading with a dependably heartwarming ending, Baldacci may be worth a try.
I’ve read a handful of these cheery, simple romantic comedies—not more, because they’re brain candy of a type I don't often find appealing enough to waste caloric intake upon. They’re so happy-go-lucky, though, that I don’t bother making great detours to avoid them. The Christmas Train does everything one of these books is supposed to do: it uses prose that in the charity of the season shall be called accessible, it creates a good positive mood, and it tells a remarkably well-constructed holiday mystery in which the only predictable feature is the reader’s comfortable confidence that in the end, the hero and his girl will kiss and make up and be happy.
It’s also likely to make the reader dream of taking a train trip—though perhaps not in the dead of winter.
For all that the prose isn't much to look at, the story is likable. It gives its setting a nice little ambience and populates the trains with big-hearted, larger-than-life characters. The plot develops nicely to a climax and takes a couple of surprising little twists before rumbling pleasantly to its conclusion.
In the tradition of its genre, it contains some common linguistic and sexual vulgarity. Less according to that tradition, it makes a few references to religion and varying degrees of participation thereof, mostly friendly; as an insider, I could put forth a mild mumble or two about the unlikeliness of a couple of scenes, but that would involve spoilers, so I won’t.
December often manages to be the busiest and most stressful time of the year; it can be a relief, then, to read a tale that intentionally takes things a little slower. I know from stories friends have told me that trains and hurry do not go well together—which on some days would seem to be another recommendation for traveling by train. At any rate, I don’t regret the two hours I spent on this one.