Review: Crossing The Tracks, by Barbara Stuber
From Goodreads: Stuck in 1920’s rural Missouri as a housekeeper, fifteen year old Iris cultivates an eccentric cast of folks into the family she never had and opens herself to love.
Crossing the Tracks, by Barbara Stuber is a gem of a book.
Barbara Stuber’s award winning first novel lives up to its promise of beautiful writing and fascinating narrative storytelling. From the opening scene of a five year old Iris playing beneath her mother’s coffin to the home of Dr. Nesbitt in Wellesford, Missouri, where Iris has been sent by her busy father to work – the 1926 rural landscape and atmosphere is perfect. This is a wonderful historical novel that you savor as you read. Ms. Stuber’s writing is lyrical, insightful of human nature, and textured. For example, Iris, the protagonist says of a crying elderly Mrs. Nesbitt, “I’ve never seen an old person cry like this. The sadness from life is supposed to be folded inside an old person, not streaming out.” A throughline in the story of dusting off memories is especially wonderful as is the call-back to the meaning of the word hobo – homeword bound. As in the best historical novels, the details of the period give life to the world Ms. Stuber has created, but do not overwhelm it. For example Doctor Nesbitt treats common rural illness but also broken bones from injuries related to hand cranking cars. The world building is quite simply terriffic. Characters are real and draw the reader into Iris’ world immediately. I just loved Iris and Mrs. Nesbitt. As a protagonist Iris made me turn the pages to see what happened next.
This is a novel about loss and grief and the themes are handled with love and care. The author’s understanding of these themes is deep and her novel shows how great losses – a mother, a son, a husband, growing old – can cripple and bind a heart but then with time and the help of others can be healed.
How relevant can a story set in the 1920s be to teens today? Highly. Iris’ world and her problems, insecurity, loss of a parent, the need to be loved and to find love, the need to understand her place in the world, are universal. This is a book that deserves a wide audience and I truly hope it finds one.
Visit Ms. Stuber’s website for more information about her and the writing of her debut novel, Crossing the Tracks.