Jean ‘Jack’ Jourdain is a young man growing up in Mobile, Alabama in the 50s and 60s. He has a very close relationship with his father, who is his mentor and friend. In The Train by Tony Jordan, we follow Jack’s life as he grows up under the shadow of his father’s impending death from a variety of ailments, and learns the value of the subtle lessons his father teaches him.
A rich portrayal of one aspect of life in the South in the 1950s and 60s, and how one young man, through the relationships he has, learns to stand on his own, and to be true to himself. A story of friendships, in particular Jack’s friendship with Jean-Louis Thibodeaux, the scion of a wealthy Mobile family, who becomes his best friend in college, but most significantly, Jack’s friendship with his father, a man who refused to allow the circumstances of his own birth, or the social strictures of southern society to beat him down, The Train is a great debut novel that contains many essential truths that are conveyed through the eyes of the main character, making them all the more profound.
While I found it a bit frustrating not knowing the narrator’s name until chapter four, the incremental introduction of Jack and his responses to life turned out to be a strong point of the book. You sort of know who he is, even if you don’t know his name, and by the time it’s introduced, you’re inside the mind of this unnamed character, seeing the world through his young eyes.
Clean prose, rich descriptions, and an inexorable growth in the character from page one until the end, marks an outstanding first novel by a promising writer. I give it four stars.