Saturday, January 3, 2009

David Baldacci: The Christmas Train

In the spirit of the season, I recently re-read The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. I remembered liking it better than Grisham’s Skipping Christmas. In fact this was my third reading. And I do indeed prefer it to Grisham’s book. It’s got humor, a couple plot twists, interesting characters, romance, and Christmas spirit. What’s not to like?

Tom Langdon is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has left the international scene for more mundane pursuits – like writing articles about mulch. Do to a recent disagreement over the indignities of post-9/11 airport security, he has been banned from air travel in the US for two years. He has a bi-coastal relationship with Lelia Gibson, the successful voice of Cuppy the Magic Beaver and other cartoon characters. But the great regret of his life was losing Eleanor Carter, the love of his youth.

So Tom decides to take the train from Washington, DC, to Los Angeles, to spend Christmas with Lelia. While he’s at it, he plans to write an article on the experience.

The story gets underway on The Capitol Limited from Washington to Chicago. As a reported on a story, Tom immediately gets to know several of his fellow passengers, as well as the Amtrack staff. His trip is significantly shaken up when he discovers that Eleanor is aboard. She is working as a writer for Max Powers, an Oscar winning producer. Interestingly, they are working on a movie script related to taking the train for Christmas. Max decides that Tom and Eleanor should collaborate, since they are both working on the same thing. And he’s used to getting his way.

We also meet Julie and Steve who are eloping, planning to get married on the Chicago – LA leg of the trip. Max decides to take charge and produce a wedding worthy of his movie.

Most of the passengers that we have met transfer to The Southwest Chief in Chicago. But we naturally pick up new Amtrak staff. We also start hearing about an approaching winter storm. But a winter storm is nothing compared to the complications offered by Lelia.

The characters are great. Tom’s wit and confusion are lots of fun. The Christmas spirit exhibited by Amtrak staff and passengers alike are perfect for a holiday book. My only regret reading The Christmas Train is knowing how expensive train travel can be. I’m ready to go!


Kit Bradley said...

That sounds like a lot of fun. We took the Christmas train from Oregon to Colorado (and back) twice in years gone by. I enjoyed it most because it was totally relaxing, with nothing to do but enjoy the train, the views, and sometimes read a book. But we didn't meet many people, except at meal times.

The Christmas Train sounds a lot more interesting than Skipping Christmas, which I did not particularly like. (And I liked the movie less.)

Nate Bradley said...

I agree that The Christmas Train is better than Skipping Christmas. Of course I like Baldacci better than Grisham - although I do like them both.

I think one difference is the caliber of humor. The Christmas Train is witty. Skipping Christmas is slapstick.

I suppose a bigger issue is that I like Tom Langdon. I do not particularly like Luther Krank.

But I'll stand by the fact that I liked both books. But I'd be happy to Read Chistmas Train every year. But I need to give Skipping Christmas longer breaks.