A Train Through Time: A Life, Real and Imagined

Elizabeth Farnsworth. Counterpoint, $25 (156p) ISBN 978-1-61902-843-2
Filmmaker and PBS foreign correspondent Farnsworth packs a life’s worth of pain and self-discovery into a slim memoir that fuses fiction and memory. The narrative shifts between a train trip nine-year-old Farnsworth took with her father in 1953 (from Topeka to San Francisco, following the death of her mother) and various conflict zones the adult Farnsworth covered as a journalist, from Chile on the brink of the coup in the 1970s to Iraq in 2003. The scenes of destruction abroad are chillingly real—Farnsworth describes, in haunting detail, meeting Chilean parents whose children were “disappeared” by Pinochet’s regime and likely met grisly ends—but she admits at the very end of the book that the train journey is largely a product of her imagination, a way for her to explore the deep sense of loss she still carries for her mother. In her narrative, the train becomes stranded in the snow for days and she and another little girl learn that a famous horse is on board and get to ride it. Readers will forgive Farnsworth’s admission that she “didn’t resist the imagining when it began” only because she’s such an able storyteller and her tale of loss, suffused with a child’s desire to attach meaning and reasoning to death, is so universal. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/05/2016
Release date: 02/01/2017
Compact Disc - 978-1-5384-1433-0
MP3 CD - 978-1-5384-1434-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-5384-1432-3
Open Ebook - 156 pages - 978-1-61902-898-2
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-1-61902-601-8
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