This is classified as a young adult novel but as I have stated before I think that many adults are missing out on great storytelling because they are unaware of the many moving, thought-provoking fiction available in this genre. This is also Samuel Miller’s debut novel which he wrote while on tour in a fifteen-passenger van with the rock band Paradise Fears according to his GoodReads author page. He lives in Los Angeles and apparently also has time to coach Little League Baseball, and write and direct music videos.
In this novel, Miller has taken the classic road trip theme to a new level and we find ourselves on a train trip across America following cryptic clues left by Arthur Louis Pullman the Third’s famous grandfather, Arthur Louis Pullman the first. Arthur Pullman the Third is also having a breakdown. Something happened to eighteen year old Arthur and what we know is that there is a restraining order out on him from his ex-girlfriend, he has a broken hand which has derailed his tennis scholarship and his father has banished him to the care of his aunt and uncle’s farm.
Here Arthur discovers a journal written by his famous grandfather, who went missing the last week of his life and died hundreds of miles away from their family home. What happened in that week remains a mystery to the family who had been grappling for years with his advancing Alzheimer’s. Arthur Louis Pullman the first is famous for the one great American novel that he wrote and is revered throughout America but Arthur the Third still has not read the book. His grandfather never wrote again but the family’s fortunes were made by the one published book but as we come to know the grandfather we find a distant father figure and a man who never talked about his past.
But in his grandfather’s journal our Arthur finds a sentence containing a train route and a destination and, as Arthur is determined to solve the mystery of his grandfather’s missing week, he embarks on a cross-country train ride believing the clues in the journal written by a man lost in the last stages of dementia are written just for him. Along the way to uncovering a terrible truth we meet a dangerous Pullman fan base with a view that no cost is too high in chasing the Pullman legacy and who believe that Arthur the First is still alive.
This is a wonderful twisty mystery as not only are we discovering the grandfather’s past we are also discovering Arthur the First’s story of his recent past. This book does ask some big political and philosophical questions regarding American’s right to protest, mental health, dementia, grief and what it means to be a good friend. It is an adventure and there are many emotional ups and downs that we share with both Arthur’s over the trip. This is beautifully and sparingly written and if you love a classic road trip novel then you will love this remake via train. Compared to Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of being a Wallflower this is totally a recommended read from me.
Jane Cowell, CEO Yarra Plenty Regional Library