I have a confession. The author of “The Railroad” is my husband. That being said, I’d like to give my opinion on the book. Mind you, I know a little bit about where he was coming from when he wrote the book. Neil wanted to write a book about child abuse. This is a subject that concerns him greatly. However I think “The Railroad” is about much more than child abuse.
In the beginning of the book we meet Mike Dobbs, a hotshot Wall Street type, up and coming in the financial world. A flash from the past reaches out to him and he is unexpectedly drawn into a world he knows nothing about. When he is approached by an old friend asking for help he never hesitates. Elena needs money to get away from her husband who is sexually abusing her daughter. Once he has given her a substantial amount of money and turned her over to the Railroad he believes his involvement has ended. It might very well have ended there if other events did not take place.
On September 11, 2001 Mike is trapped in the subway beneath the streets of Manhattan as the World Trade Center collapses above. Perhaps it is a sudden awareness of his own mortality, or post traumatic stress disorder, or some unnamed epiphany, but he decides to abandon his New York life, his girlfriend, and his friends to retreat to his upstate shack. Okay, it isn’t exactly a shack but it is certainly a far cry from his city loft. Shattered by the events of 9/11 Mike drifts into a world of alcoholism and depression.
It’s at this point that the story takes an unexpected twist. Elena contacts him once again. This time she is looking for a place for a friend of hers to hide. Like Elena, Eileen Benoit’s daughter is being molested. The Railroad can help her, but they need to arrange a place for her. In the meantime she needs to get away. Mike, the unlikely hero, once again steps up to the plate. He allows this woman and her seven year old daughter Megan to move into his small house on a temporary basis.
What ensues is a journey, both emotional and physical, for these three individuals. As a varied cast of characters are introduced, the sense of danger increases. The news is filled with stories of the “Chapter and Verse Murders”. Women and children disappear from their abandoned cars with only the numbers “451” written in blood at the scene. Is there a connection between these disappearances and the Railroad? Once Elena and Megan have been moved, her husband shows up on Mike’s doorstep. As things evolve, Mike is drawn deeper and deeper into a mystery he can’t seem to solve.
Mike’s journey to find out what happened to Eileen and Megan is also a journey of the spirit. As he searches for answers to their whereabouts, he also searches deep inside himself. Will Mike be able to save Eileen and Megan? Will he be able to save himself? Culminating in a shocking ending, “The Railroad” is a suspenseful tale that touches the heart.
I like this book. I like the raw style Neil uses to tell his tale. I gravitate between hating Mike Dobbs and feeling sorry for him. Sometimes I just want to smack him in the head. Elena frustrates me as she moves between being a sympathetic character and an annoying, whiny woman. I feel sorry for little Megan but sometimes she is such a brat I forget what she has been through and I would like to put her over my knee and spank her. Basically, these characters are so real they jump off the pages and I respond as I would to people I actually know. I recommend it to anyone who likes a mystery, doesn’t mind some four letter words, and can relate to the human condition in all its varied forms