Book Review | The Night Train
Title: The Night Train: A Novel
Author: Clyde Edgerton
About the Book:
In 1963, at the age of 17, Dwayne Hallston discovers James Brown and wants to perform just like him. His band, the Amazing Rumblers, studies and rehearses Brown’s Live at the Apollo album in the storage room of his father’s shop in their small North Carolina town. Meanwhile, Dwayne’s forbidden black friend Larry–aspiring to play piano like Thelonius Monk–apprentices to a jazz musician called the Bleeder. His mother hopes music will allow him to escape the South.
A dancing chicken and a mutual passion for music help Dwayne and Larry as they try to achieve their dreams and maintain their friendship, even while their world says both are impossible. In THE NIGHT TRAIN, Edgerton’s trademark humor reminds us of our divided national history and the way music has helped bring us together.
This book wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was expecting something completely different. More light-hearted and fun I guess. What I got was actually a pretty serious book carrying an important message.
The first surprise was with the writing style. I spent so much time the first half of the book confused. The lack of quotation marks made it difficult to filter between dialogue and description. It may not be as difficult for someone who has grown up in the South, but I am unfamiliar with some of the Southern slang that was used. I had to reread countless lines to figure out if I had just read something that was being said or if it was part of a description I just didn’t grasp. I will admit it did get easier as I hit Part 2. I had come to know the characters and I had become used to their slang, but getting to that point was frustrating.
The second surprise was with Clyde Edgerton ability to not state the race of the character, but show it. Unfortunately, there were times that I would be surprised when I would find out that a character I thought was black was actually white, and vice versa. It kind of rocked my literary world a bit, but in a good way. I liked that it was hard to tell if Dwayne was black or white because he was friends with Larry, who is black. It just made it that much more apparent how unimportant the color of our skin should be.
The best part of the book was the end when the Amazing Rumblers, performed on the Bobby Lee Reese tv show. It really drove in the message of racial tolerance. I liked the message. I think we need to be reminded of how far we have come but also how far we can still go when it comes to uniting as citizens.
I don’t think this is a very good book to judge Clyde Edgerton’s other work from. For me, it wasn’t my favorite. The message is great and I think it would do everyone a service to read it, but the presentation was difficult for me and not my thing. I would be willing to try something else of his if I was really needing something to read, but for now I think I’ll stick with authors that I know I love.
*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*