cover image The Sleeping Car Porter

The Sleeping Car Porter

Suzette Mayr. Coach House, $17.95 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-55245-458-9

Mayr’s dazzling latest (after Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall) tells the story of Baxter, a queer Black train porter, during a trip from Montreal to Vancouver in 1929. While Baxter grinds through endless tasks to keep the passengers happy and comfortable, he endures insufficient meals, sleep deprivation, repressed sexual desires, and the ever-present threat of receiving his 60th demerit, after which a porter is fired. On this particular journey, there are also singular guests to deal with: a romance writer and her adult daughter, a medium who believes her compartment is haunted, a recently orphaned little girl, a spry doctor, and a recluse with a possible stowaway in his cabin. It will all be worth it, however, if Baxter’s work as a porter allows him to save enough money to go to dentistry school. Mayr’s prose is vivid but never overwrought, capturing the surrealism of intense fatigue in constant motion: “He sits on the hopper again, his only escape, staring into the dark hole between his legs as rail ties blur by in the dark. He misses standing still.” Readers will be captivated. (Oct.)