Reviewing the Christmas Train

This review covers the book (not the TV movie) The Christmas Train.

David Baldacci’s The Christmas Train is the typical Christmas story. Tom Langdon is a disillusioned journalist who must travel by train from Washington, DC to Los Angeles where he is scheduled to meet his occasional girlfriend. During the trip, Tom meets many interesting characters who force him to confront the hardness in his heart and the love he still has for Eleanor.

For weeks, Mom has been talking about wanting to watch The Christmas Train movie (she loves the Hallmark Christmas movies). While looking up broadcast times for her, I remembered that David Baldacci wrote a book called The Christmas Train. Realizing that the movie would soon be playing on a television near me, and having enjoyed several of Mr. Baldacci’s books, I decided to read The Christmas Train. If the book was good enough, I would watch the movie with Mom.

The Hallmark Christmas movies aren’t at all my thing. From what I have seen, they always involve wealthy white people whose poor communication skills have created a barrier that’s preventing them from acknowledging the true love they share. But I have always liked the idea of a cross-country train trip, and I may be able to sit through this movie with Mom. So, I began The Christmas Train feeling optimistic.

As always, Mr. Baldacci created detailed, interesting characters. His descriptions of train travel helped keep my attention.

For much of the story, I was bothered by the improbability of Tom and Eleanor winding up on the same train at the same time. By the end, that troubling coincidence had become a heartwarming aspect of the plot that made me glad I didn’t stop reading.

The blizzard was certainly expected and it helped drive the plot. Still, the predictability of the blizzard was too obvious for me.

The scene where Roxanne does her best to convince children about the existence of God was simply unnecessary. That scene left me feeling like Mr. Baldacci had a checklist of issues that must be covered in a heartwarming Christmas story.

Even though parts of The Christmas Train didn’t agree with me, I’m glad I read the book; in fact, I’m looking forward to watching the movie with Mom. My desire to watch a Christmas movie with her (instead of trying not to make fun of it as I leave the room) encouraged me to stick with a story I would normally not finish and dismiss as sappy and unrealistic. Thanks to the motivation Mom doesn’t know she provided, I finished The Christmas Train with a smile on my face.

Yes, some of it is corny and sappy. But corny and sappy can sometimes touch our heart in ways our hearts aren’t often touched. Writing this review, I’m left with two important thoughts: maybe my dislike for sappy Christmas stories and their like is driven by the reality that I have never felt that kind of sappy love directed toward me. Maybe that kind of sappy love has never been directed toward me, because I have never been willing to open my heart enough to offer someone else that kind of sappy love.

I’ll never be a fan of the Hallmark Christmas movies, the people simply aren’t real enough for me. Thanks to the Christmas Train and my want to do something with Mom she likes, I have an appreciation for why the Hallmark Christmas movies are so popular. Sadly, many of us have either let our true love walk away, or have been unable to give enough of ourselves to get back the true love we most want. I hope The Christmas Train is for me a reminder that I, like Tom, must be willing to open my heart in ways that life has taught me can be both exciting and scary.

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