Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Book Review: Whispers Along the Rail
Miller, Judith. 2007. Whispers Along the Rails (Book 2 in the Postcards from Pullman Series). Bethany House. 374.
In the hush of Olivia Mott's third-floor bedroom, the click of the metal latches on her Gladstone traveling bag echoed in the early morning silence.
Whispers Along the Rails is the sequel to In The Company of Secrets. The book begins roughly four to five months after the close of the first book. Olivia Mott, the heroine-and-narrator of the first book, is ready to begin her new duties for the Pullman company. She'll be traveling--in disguise, not letting anyone know she works or lives in Pullman--and taking notes on the service she receives. The first book saw the crumbling of Olivia's courtship with Fred DeVault. The second book sees it slowly--very very slowly--being mended. She's still being pursued by Mr. Howard, her manager and one of the elite executives.
Unlike In the Company of Secrets, Whispers Along the Rails has multiple narrators. We now get the pov of two other characters: Charlotte (who we see is now living in Chicago) and Fred (who has become more and more involved in talks of Unions and strikes). We also meet several new characters: Mrs. Priddle, Charlotte's landlady; Matthew Clayborn, a Chicago journalist who is interested in Pullman's ethical mishaps; Ellen Ashton and her father, Mr. Ashton, a Chicago lawyer who is an advocate of Unions and a friend to those in Pullman wanting to join the Union, his daughter, Ellen, is being "courted" (a.k.a. smooched in public) by Fred who makes frequent trips from Pullman to Chicago. Those are just to name a few.
My favorite element of Whispers Along the Rails? The redemption of Charlotte Spencer. Charlotte comes to the end of the money she'd taken with her, and seeks refuge at the Priddle House. A place where the down-and-out can board if and only if they're willing to contribute to the house: whether that means taking a job outside the home or working within the home. And Charlotte is definitely down and out. Mrs. Priddle has a second rule--a rule that proves to be the salvation of the young and foolish Charlotte--her boarders must attend daily bible studies and attend church weekly. Charlotte finds work at a department store, Marshall Fields. And it does her a world of good. Charlotte's life becomes transformed--from the inside out--during the course of the book.
My least favorite element of Whispers Along the Rails? I got impatient with Olivia and Fred. Olivia may very well be the most naive woman I've encountered of late within the pages of a book. Her cluelessness about life, about her work, about her boss, Mr. Howard...can be annoying. You can begin to understand why Fred finds Olivia to be more than he can handle. That being said, Fred is one of the most stubborn, most jealous, most frustrating "heroes." In some ways, he may be more world-wise, but in other ways he's just plain dumb.
My favorite new character? It'd be hard. I love Matthew Clayborn. And I love Mrs. Priddle.
This book ends in a cliffhanger.