Book Review: Train to Glory by Lisa Y. Potocar
May 10, 2016
Young Adult / Historical Fiction
“It takes a man to do a man’s job.” I don’t know who said that. The people in Lisa Y. Potocar’s Train to Glory, a sequel of Sweet Glory, don’t exactly say those words verbatim, but some of them certainly think it. In Sweet Glory, Jana disguised herself as a man and joined the army. Her father instilled in her the belief that a “woman can tackle anything a man can if she has a mind to it”. She is the living embodiment of her father’s words. Now, finally home, she is on a path to learn just how indispensible her time in the war was to the uncertain future of her country.
A locomotive takes Jana to her home in Elmira, New York. Keeley, the young Irishman that Jana fell in love with during her time in the war, is missing. With the help of another woman who had also disguised herself as a woman to fight in the war, Jana sets out to find him. She does. Well, sort of. Keeley suffers from amnesia. There’s no telling when his memories will return. Even if it does, how will Jana make him fall in love with her again? While certain memories do appear to be coming back to Keeley, Jana finds herself travelling to numerous venues to tell people about her story. Someone out there doesn’t want her story to be told.
Don’t expect that you will know who the main villain is because you won’t. If you do, then I guess you’re smarter than me.
Readers will travel to places such as Elmira, Buffalo and Johnstown, New York in the mid-1860s. During this time, apart from Abraham Lincoln’s run as the president, voices fighting for women’s rights and equality are just starting to be heard. I enjoy novels that make one experience the world of its characters with more senses than one. This is one of those. Small details in this novel like the “caustic odor” of newly applied paint made me believe that I was reading a book that was written by a talented author who saw and experienced everything she wrote about.
The author lets readers know early on that Jana, who has witnessed first-hand the unsightly side of war, isn’t a typical 1860s young woman. For one thing, as she makes her way home on a train, a sound makes her tense as one of her hands go searching for the Colt revolver at her hip. It brings back a particular memory of reading a novel set in modern times in which a mother who has served in the army is constantly taken back to her time in war by sounds that resemble things like gunshots and helicopter rotors. From the motives and reasons behind the things that each character does, everything that transpires is realistic.
There’s one scene that I recall in particular that will have many readers in stitches. In this scene, Jana tells her story to an entire crowd of people. All of a sudden, eggs fly her way. She catches it and she continues to talk as if nothing has happened. As I can attest, there is something in this book for everyone. It’s a unique love story coupled with nail-biting suspense. The author made some characters, like Keeley and Jana’s good friend Leanne, speak with different accents. It was easy for me the picture what the characters sounded like when they talked.
Halfway in, we learn of another thing that Jana’s father had thought her. One should search one’s immediate surroundings to wriggle oneself out of tight situations. If Jana’s father had referred to this at an earlier point, it wouldn’t have bordered on seeming as if this fact was just thrown in at a time when it needed to be. I came upon a handful of big words in the book that the author could’ve done without. I don’t know about everybody else and if they’d agree with me or not, but I certainly wouldn’t think of an “effigy” as a doll if someone said that word to me. Of course, we’re all different.
Anyone can find happiness. It only takes reading this novel to know that. Lisa Y. Potocar leaves readers with no doubt that women can indeed “tackle anything a man can if she has a mind to it”. She even shows this in a way that will come to readers as a complete surprise. Don’t expect that you will know who the main villain is because you won’t. If you do, then I guess you’re smarter than me. This historical fiction novel is certainly a testament as to why this genre has become one of my favorites.
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