*shrugs* meh. I’ll Stay Where I Am, Thanks.

Commuters. Emily Gray Tedrowe. HarperPerennial. 375 pp. $13.99

Winnie Trevis’ father is singlehandedly responsible for connecting Manhattan to their small town of Hartfield through the train system. Two generations later, the grandson of her new husband takes the train weekly to visit the man responsible for his trust fund and listen, moderately willingly, to his grandfather delve deep into the stories of his younger years. Jerry, now an old man with a failing mind, was once a shrewd businessman, and has recently bought a historical landmark of Hartfield as his home. But in addition to his mind, his back has been failing him, and Winnie decides to cut down the oldest tree in the town to make room for his swimming pool. Water is the only thing that helps Jerry’s back. Caught in the middle are their daughters: Rachel, Winnie’s daughter, tries to make ends meet with a husband who is still figuring himself out and two daughters who shouldn’t have to worry like they do; Annette, Jerry’s daughter, runs the foundational branch of Jerry’s business and wants to distinguish herself and her company from not only the family business, but also the family. Annette is outraged at her father’s new marriage; at her age, Winnie must be a golddigger.

The Good: Tedrowe travels flawlessly through the perspectives of 3 generations–Avery as the troubled grandson; Rachel as the unlucky daughter; Winnie as the wise matriarch. each character fills his or her role exactly as they’re supposed to. No one stands out of turn; no one forgets to raise his hand before speaking. Commuters is a shruggingly nice book; it’s a book to come home and relax to after a long day of work.

The Bad: Many of the elements that make this book sweet also make it tired. The story is nice, the characters are nice, but no one steps outside of themselves to truly make it interesting. Avery’s dark past includes drug addiction–so strong it took two rounds of rehab to overcome–yet when once again confronted with the type of people he knew in those days and even with the drugs themselves, he hardly bats an eye. But, then again, this story isn’t about his drug addiction, so we can’t expect him to worry about it too much.

The Ugly: Nobody really has a happy ending. Nobody really changes. Well, maybe they did change, but I didn’t catch it. I guess they didn’t have to change, but the plot line centers around the dysfunction of a family. I only assumed that the end of the book would include some sort of blow out, a few apologies or kind gestures, and the ultimate unity of at least some of said family. Sorry to disappoint.

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About katepadilla

I write for the Spencer Daily Reporter in Spencer, Iowa. I keep blogs lifebythebooks, Save Me, San Francisco, and Beauty and Beast Buy a House. I'm also hard at work writing a short story collection inspired by the music of Train.

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