Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThis volume is an odd amalgam of memoir, job manual and social study, as ex-druggie, ex-alcoholic, bisexual English Ph.D. Niemann reflects on her decade as a boomer--a railroad brakeman for the Southern Pacific line--from the tedious details of her daily labors to thoughts on the spirit of the American West. In her job, the author encountered many ``characters,'' from Wrong Way, with whom she had a brief affair, to a frightening survivalist against whom she never won an argument. The author's portraits seem true to life, though Niemann terms some fictitious, and include insightful glimpses into personal history and a startling view of Utah society, as well as bland, easily forgettable passages. (Mar.)
Library Journal - Library JournalThis recollection of the author's ten years as a migratory brakeman for the railroad (a ``boomer'' who follows seasonal cycles of rush and recession around the country) can be appreciated on several levels. Certainly it is a remarkable adventure tale, the occupational odyssey of the Ph.D. in literature who immerses herself in blue-collar America. The book also reveals much about the state of the nation's railroads in the post-Reagan era: the hazards of the work, the safety violations, the compromises of the unions, the harrassment of women and minorities, the transient and often self-destructive lifestyles. At the same time, the author confronts herself, exploring her alcoholism and substance abuse; her difficulties with friends and lovers of both sexes; what it was in the life that attracted her in the first place; and more. The book does not conclude so much as stop, a chapter in an unfinished life. Highly recommended.-- Beverly Miller, Boise State Univ. Lib., Id.
- University of California Press
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