THE LAST PASSENGER TRAIN is a travelogue of Robert M. Goldstein’s 2017 trip on TransCanada. It is the second-longest railroad in the world, stretching 2792 miles from Atlantic to Pacific. During the voyage, the author and his wife Mindy meet their fellow travelers, relish the exceptional cuisine aboard the train, and enjoy the scenic Canadian wilderness. It is an altogether pleasant journey. And here lies the main problem of THE LAST PASSENGER TRAIN. Because, as charming as the trans-continental rail trip sounds, it doesn’t make for a riveting read.
There are many ways to make the travelogue more engaging. Travelers can entertain readers with tidbits about the culture and history of the places they visit. They can describe the colorful personalities they encounter along the way. If the writer is feeling particularly introspective, he can try exploring what makes traveling so attractive. To his credit, Goldstein does attempt all these things. If nothing else, he articulates how much he enjoys trains and travel. But the author fails to convey why these things are meaningful to him. Even worse, Goldstein fails to convince readers they should care as well.
Most of THE LAST PASSENGER TRAIN boils down to a series of anecdotes. Many of them revolve around Goldstein fretting about the time table and running late, despite Mindy’s level-headed advice to embrace what they dub the “Zen Train Mind” and enjoy the scenery. When he does so, Goldstein notices more gripping stories developing around him. He sees ramshackle towns of rural Canada forgotten by the economy and the government. He observes overworked train staff dealing with demanding passengers. At several points, Goldstein briefly touches upon the impact of climate change on the Canadian wilderness. However, he is reluctant to explore these darker but potentially fascinating topics, dropping them almost immediately in favor of more anecdotes.
THE LAST PASSENGER TRAIN, a travelogue by Robert M. Goldstein, is a perfect dinner story for family and friends but may have a somewhat harder time engaging readers who aren’t already big fans of train travel or the author’s previous works.
~Danijel Štriga, for IndieReader