Thursday, November 4, 2010

[Review] Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

Title: Crossing the Tracks
Author: Barbara Stuber
Publication: July 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (imprint of Simon & Schuster)
Review Copy: HC, Won (thanks to Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of Starcrossed)
Pages: 288
My Rating:

Blurb from Goodreads:  
At fifteen, Iris is a hobo of sorts – no home, no family, no plan. After her mother’s early death, Iris’s father focuses on big plans for his new shoe stores and his latest girlfriend, and has no time for his daughter. Unbeknowst to her, he hires Iris out as housekeeper and companion for a country doctor’s elderly mother. Suddenly Iris is alone, stuck in gritty rural Missouri, too far from her only friend Leroy and too close to a tenant farmer Cecil Deets, who menaces the neighbors, and Iris suspects, his own daughter.

Iris is buoyed by the warmth and understanding the doctor and his mother show her, but just as she starts to break out of her shell tragedy strikes. Iris must find the guts and cunning to take aim at the devil incarnate and discover if she is really as helpless - or hopeless – or homeless - as she once believed.
My thoughts: 

First off, let me say that I'd been waiting around three months to read this one, and over that time, it was still pretty much #1 on my To-Read pile. You can look at my dedication (desperation) towards scoring myself a signed copy here (and winning!) This is one of the rare cases for me: I was immediately drawn in to this book because of its trailer (you can watch it below!). It sounds like it has the makings of a born-to-be classic. Now, did that expectation hold up?

I'm glad to say it did! It definitely played out much like a classic, something of a modern-er To Kill A Mockingbird. I did see some parallels, but Crossing the Tracks was in a world of its own, though its setting is kind of similar to Mockingbird. Crossing the Tracks is set in the south, Missouri-mid-westward, and Stuber takes a great deal of effort establishing that setting throughout the novel.

Crossing the Tracks, at its core, is a "coming-of-age" novel that deals with Iris in her hopes for a place to stay, a family with whom she can confide in, and a place where she feels she is wanted and appreciated. Having found none of these back in her old home with her papa, Iris is something of a hobo. Mrs Nesbitt--the old woman to whom she was sold out to, strong and smart and cunning in the most virtuous of ways--is her confidante, to whom she can speak about anything and everything. The world is shifting around her as people leave her life and others become more important to her, one such individual: the cute Leroy. The events that occur around this world . . . ? Well, read and you shall find out! (the book, not my review!)

I'm convinced Crossing the Tracks is worthy of the 5 star treatment. :) I loved Crossing the Tracks, the smooth movements between scenes, the characters are so so clearly differentiated that you know where they stand in your mind; the storyline was slow-moving, but it was a satisfying kind of slow. It had that very southern feel to it, and given its setting, it was very suitable. Also, just the title Crossing the Tracks bears such symbolic significance. Even more so when I read the very last page, and everything just clicked. Every character evoked in me such intense feelings and emotions. I was tossed around from angry to happy; laughed at times and reached for the tissues at others.

It was just amazing, and I could not believe that the book had ended when I'd turned the last page. The ending, while a satisfying and "happy" one, felt a bit abrupt, as though there were some loose ends. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it thoroughly and still can not believe that this is Stuber's debut novel! I don't know what she's been doing all her life (further than what she's said on her website bio), but she's brilliant! I do hope she's working on a second novel. Haven't heard any news...

I am led to believe that Crossing the Tracks was the first novel to open my mind up to historical fiction, and I'm so glad that it has nourished my sense that historical fiction really kicks butt! No one should miss out on this title! It was definitely everything I expected--and hoped--the book would be.

Dear Father,

I still don't like "Dear", but "Father" is okay. "Father" will fit better in the post office box in Kansas City he traded for our home.
Now what? The paper is huge and endlessly blank. I write:

Thought you'd like to know I made it safely to Wellsford.
Dr. Nesbitt and his mother have an interesting house out in the country. It is a farm, but a man named Cecil Deets does the field work. We had pineapple upside-down cake for dessert tonight. Mrs. Nesbitt has stopped using her wheelchair, but no one will say why.

I stop, add a few more lines, stop again. This is stupid. I sound like a bull manure salesman. It feels like lying even though it's true. It's too . . . what? Friendly? Daughterly? Forgiving? I watch the moths flitter around the Grecian ruins. I picture my room at home--a pitch-black box with the ceiling for a lid. That's the house of ghosts now, not this one.
A moth grazes my cheek. My letter falls facedown on the floor. When I pick it up, a tear drops right on "Dear Father," turning it into a pale puddle. I wipe my face on the bath towel folded over my footboard, take another paper, and write:

Dear Father,

I made it to Wellsford.
Dr. Nesbitt's house is a farm.
Your Daughter,

Iris. (pp. 38-39)


Live in Australia?
Fishpond | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

Live elsewhere?
Amazon | The Book Depository

I am in no way affiliated with the above sites, nor with Stuber or publisher. I do not receive any money for reviewing or linking.

Learn more about Crossing the Tracks and read more reviews at Goodreads


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