The Train Jumper

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
268 Pages
Reviewed on 03/21/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Train Jumper is a work of fiction in the historical genre. It is aimed at the general adult reading audience and was penned by author Gwen B. Banta. The book follows Kat and Leni, two young women on the run through 1950s America who use the railroads to escape their lives. Kat has run away from college after losing her closest friend, and Leni is an illegal immigrant on the run from the law. With each stop on their journey, they discover new worlds and new ways of life from a Gentlemen’s Club to a plantation and beyond as they try to figure out where their place in the world is.

This book is positively dripping with charm and adventure in equal measure, with its two leading ladies hopping from box car to box car to see where the wind takes them. The state of Indiana proves a wonderful backdrop to this odyssey of self discovery, and Gwen B. Banta’s prose does an excellent job of transporting the reader back to 1950s rural America. Kat and Leni are characterized very effectively with the author establishing their characters quickly, then finding interesting and unexpected ways to develop those characters as the adventure unfolds. Their relationship is the beating heart of the story and the presentation of it is wonderful. The Train Jumper is a book that will appeal to a lot of people; its sense of adventure is matched by the incredible grit of its leading characters. Put together they are a recipe for an unmissable novel which I’d recommend to anyone.

Lesley Jones

In The Train Jumper by Gwen B. Banta, in 1950’s Wabash, Indiana, teenager Kathleen Marie ‘Kat’ Caswell and her best friend, Jake Jackson, loved to spend their time watching the passing trains and dreaming of distant places and an exciting future. As time passes, Kat discovers she has been betrayed by those she trusted the most, which reveals secrets about her past. After Jake makes a huge personal confession and suddenly dies, Kat is traumatized and decides to leave the small town and try to escape the memories that haunt her. On her travels, Kat encounters many pivotal people that impact her life, including Hilda, the owner of a gentlemen’s club in New Orleans. Kat is offered work at the club where she meets Mexican immigrant Leni, who is also running away from her past. The two girls form an inseparable friendship and when the authorities close in to capture all illegal immigrants, including Leni, Kat refuses to let her travel alone. As the girls find work on a plantation, a horrifying attack changes the course of their lives and futures.

The Train Jumper by Gwen B. Banta is a beautifully written story that has many compelling layers of intrigue and interest. The plot is fast-moving and every character is both interesting and unique. I loved how the relationships between the characters revealed so much about their personalities. The friendship between Kat and Jake was extremely endearing and the subtle but powerful details really highlighted their closeness. Kat was a wonderful character; she possessed such a caring and forgiving soul and her strength and fortitude were admirable. I also loved quirky Hilda and her caring attitude towards the girls. I thought the characters' reactions to situations highlighted their values and morals perfectly. The descriptive narrative throughout was beautiful and swept you into 1950s America. I thought the story also dealt with the attitudes of society in that era really well too, especially around race, class, immigrants, and homosexuality. There are some very memorable scenes throughout which cover the very best and worst of humanity. The dialogue flows beautifully and captures the feelings and emotions of society during the era. I loved the ending and epilogue as they brought all the loose ends together. However, I feel there is room for a sequel as I would love to know what Kat experiences in the next chapter of her life.

Pikasho Deka

The Train Jumper by Gwen B Banta is a coming-of-age story set in the 1950s. Kat Caswell grew up spending her teen years trainspotting alongside her best friend, Jake Jackson, in the small rural town of Wabash, Indiana. Growing up with an alcoholic father, Kat finds a second home at the Jackson household. But Jake's unexpected death on the tracks forces Kat to drop out of college and hop on the next train out of town. She relies on the kindness of strangers and scrambles odd jobs here and there until she arrives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where a big-hearted woman named Hilda provides her with a stable home. She becomes fast friends with a Mexican immigrant named Leni. But Kat has to move once again when immigration officials come for Leni, and her struggles seem far from over.

The Train Jumper is a thoughtful coming-of-age story filled with heartbreak, humor, and adventure. Author Gwen B Banta's moving tale of a young woman's self-discovery journey showcases the human spirit's indomitable power to overcome overwhelming odds. I found the characters realistic, and the struggles they go through make them easy to relate to. Kat's experiences with different places and people shape her into the woman she later becomes in her life. Her relationships with Jake, and later Hilda and Leni, seem particularly influential in Kat's growth from a fun-loving teenager to a strong woman who is capable of overcoming anything that life throws at her. If you're a fan of well-written coming-of-age stories, I highly recommend The Train Jumper.