AUTHOR: Rodney Jones
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Smashwords (multiple e-formats), Barnes and Noble (Nook e-book), All Romance (multiple e-formats), OmniLit (multiple e-formats)
APPROXIMATE LENGTH: 252 pages
Recommended for readers seeking 19th century American historical fiction and/or innocent romance.
Romance—Young Adult/Historical Fiction
The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains is a nightmare to shelve. It contains elements of a variety of genres, being about a pair of teenage sweethearts, one from 2009 and one from 1875. Although it involves time travel, this book hardly counts as science fiction, as the time travel device is never explained and unimportant. The book is primarily concerned with the life of its teenage protagonist, John Hartley, a lad from 1875 who finds himself in 2009. The majority of the book takes place in 1875, and so it could also be considered historical fiction to some extent.
In The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains, Jones takes his time to develop his characters and paint a rich setting, detailing each scene with care. John’s conversational narration and the uncertainty of how things can possibly work out between John and his sweetheart from the future keep the pace moving forward even though this book isn’t a traditional page-turner (even so, I finished it much sooner than anticipated—curled up with it one night and finished the next).
First person past. John Hartley, a 17-year-old boy living in 1875, narrates this book in a conversational voice. Since he speaks from the point of view of someone living over a century ago, some of his word choices are a bit old-fashioned.
John Hartley, a 17-year-old miller’s nephew living in 1875 Vermont, wanders into the woods near his hometown one day and finds himself in 2009. Clueless and confused, he meets the vivacious Tess, a girl his age. She soon gets over her disbelief over meeting someone from the past and does what she can to help John find his way back to 1875.
John, who narrates the novel, is immediately likable. His voice, down-to-earth and often contemplative, shines through the writing in a way that makes it easy to forget that he’s a character on a page. Honest, humble, and kindhearted, he hasn’t a wicked bone in his body. The only remotely negative thing anyone could possibly say about him is that he may be a bit too nice and thus vulnerable. His wide-eyed wonder at the curiosities of 2009 is funny and endearing, especially in his interactions with Tess, who (gasp!) runs around with bare, shaved legs and cusses more than a girl ought to.
Tess is one of those characters that you either love or hate right off the bat. Spunky and smart-mouthed, she comes off as a bit obnoxious as she teases John for his naiveté. And yet it’s that very spirit that draws John to her, that keeps her in his mind even after he finds his way back to his regular life. Not much is said about her back-story other than that she is the child of divorced parents. But actions speak louder than words, and despite her somewhat annoying mouth, her willingness to go out of her way to help John reveals her fundamentally kind nature.
When Tess unexpectedly shows up in 1875 after John finds his way home, trouble ensues. Why is she there? How can John explain her presence and strange behavior? The events that unfurl in the latter part of the book lead to an ending that completely blindsided me (and I’m rarely shocked by twist endings), so much so that I yelled out loud at my Kindle app. And yet, by the time I reached the last sentence, I found myself utterly satisfied with the way things worked out.
The majority of this novel takes place in John’s time, 1875, and the historical setting and everyday culture are believable and clearly well researched. There are barn dances and trips to town, old time justice and contemplation of courtship. The time travel element of this novel is left unexplained, as it is unimportant. It is an Act of God, the hand of the almighty Jones throwing John into Tess’ world to see what he’ll do. Neither John nor Tess have any way of knowing or controlling how or when they’ll end up jumping through time, only that it has something to do with a certain stretch of woods.
The Sun, the Moon, and Maybe the Trains is a charming tale of young love that blossoms from the most unlikely of circumstances. Engaging and absorbing, it swept me away and left me with a smile on my face.
THE NITPICKY STUFF
This book is impeccably edited.
This book contains a few instances of the “s” word but otherwise is completely G-rated.
While a past resident of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, New York, and Vermont, Rodney Jones now resides in Richmond, Indiana, where he whiles away his days pecking at a laptop, riding his ten-speed up the Cardinal Greenway, taking long walks with his daughter, or backpacking and wilderness camping. Rodney's interests include: art, science, politics, whiskey and chocolate, music (collecting vinyl records), gardening, and travel.
Disclosure: Red Adept Publishing is also the publisher of my own novel, Artificial Absolutes. I bought and read this book on my own, and the above reflects only my honest opinion.