Crossing the Tracks

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
276 Pages
Reviewed on 08/22/2023
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Author Biography

I grew up in a small town in the Ozarks, playing baseball, riding bikes, mowing yards, and reading comic books, the youngest of eight children. Norman Rockwell could have moved in down the street and felt right at home. These days I live and write in Arlington, Virginia, with my understanding wife and a cat named Truman. Our three kids are grown, and we are begging for grandchildren.

After nearly a lifetime of writing nonfiction – essays and articles, lectures and lessons – I was rescued from my tedium and set free, liberated to explore life and faith in the realm of fiction. Unwittingly, I seem to have acquired an expansive cast of characters along the way, some begging to enter the story, others hiding in the background, hoping to go unnoticed, but I see them all. So many stories to tell.

I am, as Parker J. Palmer put it, “…one who loves to watch life become words and words become life.”

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Crossing the Tracks is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, interpersonal dramas, and social issues subgenres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience and mature teens wishing to learn about the dark realities of recent history. Penned by author Drew Hill, this is a powerful story set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement unfolding in Kansas City. The novel follows a white, working-class family man who takes a bold stand for justice and inclusivity amid a society marked by racism and bigotry. As history unfolds with pivotal events like Greensboro, Selma, and Memphis, the protagonist faces personal and moral challenges that force him to confront his own biases and the systemic prejudices ingrained in his community.

Author Drew Hill has crafted an enlightening experience that provides a vivid portrayal of the challenges individuals faced in confronting racial injustice during the Civil Rights Movement whilst also offering a powerful and emotive family drama at its heart. The story's authenticity and exploration of personal transformation made it a poignant and thought-provoking read that resonated long after the final page, not least because of Hill's capacity for emotional depth, creating a narrative that captures the essence of a transformative era in American society with the reality of how it directly affects people. The book shines a light on the individual's struggle against deeply rooted societal norms and offers a perspective on the significance of personal integrity and moral conviction during a tumultuous era in American history. Overall, Crossing the Tracks is a highly recommended read which delves into the complexities of family dynamics, community pressure, and personal growth, presenting a compelling narrative of one man's journey to overcome prejudice and advocate for change.

Grant Leishman

Crossing the Tracks by Drew Hill is a wonderfully powerful and uplifting recounting of one man’s life and contribution, from first his son and latterly his grandson. Oscar Hill did not have the easiest start to life, in the early days of the twentieth century. When his father was accidentally killed, working for the railroad, Oscar was just eleven and his mother was left alone to raise her family without her beloved husband’s emotional and financial support and with a meager compensation from the railways that had stolen Oscar’s dad away from them. This story takes us through the momentous events that occurred to this ordinary, yet exceptional man; from running away to Arkansas, with his sixteen-year-old girlfriend to get married against her parents' wishes, to surviving the Great Depression, to watching a man being lynched by an angry white mob, and creating a loving home to raise his large family in, in Kansas City, Missouri. Oscar Hill saw it all and yet managed to remain a dignified, loving example to all who knew, respected, and loved him. Through forty-seven years working for the Frisco Railway, at a time of great racial unease in America, Oscar would do everything in his power to spread love and equality wherever he went, regardless of the color of a man’s skin or his religion.

Crossing the Tracks reminds us that simple stories about great, moral men are always worth writing about and reading. Author Drew Hill does great justice to his grandfather’s memory and legacy in this moving and deeply motivating story. I particularly appreciated that Oscar’s morality and understanding of his fellow human beings was something innate in him that was only reinforced by his deep faith and his belief in equality. If there was a man who would always ask himself, “What would Jesus do?” then I believe Oscar Hill was that man. I very much enjoyed the exploration of Oscar’s artistic and creative side. Here was a man who worked daily with his hands in a dirty, physical job and yet had a side to him that needed expression, as evidenced by his poems and especially the special copper book “A Volume of Love” that Oscar so lovingly created for his beloved Verna. If there was a lesson to be learned from Oscar's life, story, and legacy, for me it was this: no matter how insignificant you may feel in the grand scheme of things, it is how you treat others that will always be remembered as your greatest legacy. Oscar Hill treated and loved everyone fairly, honestly, and with great compassion. We can all learn a lot from how this man lived his life and this story is a fitting tribute to an ordinary man with an extraordinary heart.

Alma Boucher

Crossing the Tracks is part biography and part history intertwined with fiction. Drew Hill wrote this story about his own family, and the historic places and events were well-researched. It was exciting to follow the Hill family’s journey through life and read about their influence and effect on people around them. Oscar and Verna were models of faithful service and showed me what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. The story is brilliantly written and filled with humor and life lessons. The Hill family made a difference from their home in Kansas City and had a considerable impact on many lives. This story exceeded my expectations and will stay with me for a long time.