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Book reviews

“The Christmas Train”

by David Baldacci

Warner Bros. Inc., 2002



“Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh” may have been fun in the olden days, but boarding “The Christmas Train” is a contemporary melange of excitement, suspense and a touch of nostalgia.




Besides the adventures of Tom Langdon, protagonist and dissatisfied journalist, the Capitol Limited, from Washington, D. C. to Chicago and the much older Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles, come alive in David Baldacci’s writing in his seventh book to make the New York Times best-seller list.

Taking the train was not Tom’s choice, but because of a recent flap at the airport, he is not allowed on planes for two years. In order to meet his current girlfriend – a voiceover star – in time for Christmas skiing at Lake Tahoe, he has no alternative. By a strange coincidence, his former love, Eleanor, a Hollywood script doctor, is on the Capitol.

A cast of zany characters, including a mysterious thief, a young eloping couple and a fortune teller, enliven the plot, as does a devastating avalanche that literally imprisons the Chief. Meanwhile, Tom learns a lot about himself and the true meaning of Christmas.

In a more serious mood, another delightful holiday book for all ages is “The Christmas Story from the Gospel According to St. Luke.” The illustrations by James Bernardin are breathtaking; the text is from the King James Bible (Harper Collins, 2002).

And if you really have time to read, don’t forget Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol,” with its unforgettable characters – Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and the miserable Scrooge.

Merry Christmas!

– Joan Agar

Nevada City

“The Trial”

Franz Kafka

Schocken Books

Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” is still a profound classic, highly relevant to the absurdities and injustices of our modern world. Much has already been written about the book, mainly because it lends itself to quite a few alternative interpretations.

Its meaning, however, may evoke in readers a content that is opaque, unintelligible, inconsistent, even paradoxical. But that is precisely the novel’s power.

Basically, “The Trial” is about a respectable young bank clerk, Joseph K., whose life takes a strange twist after he is singled out for accusation and arrest, even though he hasn’t bothered anyone. Joseph doesn’t know what he’s done wrong. He’s innocent and spends his time trying to defend his innocence against a charge that he can’t get any information about, while at the same time trying to influence certain individuals he thinks will help lead him to his acquittal.

The book’s interest lies in Kafka’s unique notions of what constitutes guilt. Guilt can destroy innocent souls much like Joseph K’s. Persecution comes to mind in Kafka’s inhuman Nazi Germany-like haywire bureaucracy (much like the persecuting Homeland Security nation of our country’s future).

The book is intriguing, interesting and intelligent. This is a “must read” book.

– David Briceno

Alta Sierra


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