Fully realized characters and a vivid setting turn this brief autobiographical novel into a rich reading experience. Set during the Depression, the story takes place among a group of hoboes who have hopped a freight train making its way through northern California. The narrator, a young married man, is heading home to his wife and son. Through a long rainy night, he and the others exchange stories. Max, a belligerent fight promoter, is on the run from an angry mob. A religious young man, Glen, is nervously leaving his family for the first time. The most interesting of the travelers is an old man running from the conventional life his grown sons think he should lead. Rice (A Heaven in the Eye) clearly has lived portions of the narrative. While his characters speak of their dreams and fears, the reader experiences them. In one sense a fascinating documentary, the chronicle also elicits a strong emotional response. (December 1)
Winner of the 1984 Western States Book Award for his autobiography, A Heaven in the Eye , Rice again recalls life during the Great Depression in his first novel. Based on a trip from Eureka, California to the Bay Area by freight, Rice fictionalizes his experiences among the hobos, drifters, and homeless of the 1930s. Flashbacks through which he relates experiences panning for gold in the mountains of northern California are interspersed with experiences on the rails. Friendships with an older man and a youth give him an understanding of the wanderer and help him gain perspective on his own life. Recommended.Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.