LAST TRAIN TO OMAHA by ANN WHITELY-GILLEN.
“…in order for a man to be free, he must bind himself to his own destiny…”
What happens when a bright young man’s promising future is tragically derailed at the age of eighteen?
Thirty-five-year-old James Milligan, the solitary and impenetrable chief architect at one of Chicago’s leading design firms, has never recovered from the gruesome death of his best friend nearly two decades before. He’s learned that a distant heart is the only way to shut out the nagging guilt and pain that threatens to capsize him at any moment. Only the dying veterans at the Aaron Milligan Palliative Care Center know the depth of the overwhelming compassion that James harbors within himself, and he is determined never to let anyone else into his heart — or his future — again.
However, when caring and patient palliative care nurse Rebecca Doyle enters his world, his hardened exterior begins to crack against his will. Will Martin Diggs, the charismatic and perplexing Vietnam War veteran convince James that it’s not too late to reclaim his future?
..... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Lisle, Illinois - August 3, 1995): The hot sun beats down on Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church, illuminating its stained glass windows and causing beams of light to crisscross above the oak benches inside.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 86): When word got around that Anna is gone, many of the veterans gather in the chapel to honor the loss of their young fallen comrade. Candles are lit as the men discreetly pass around a flask of brandy from pew to pew.
Martin raises his flask up in the air. "I'll be seeing you, McBain."
MY THOUGHTS: Oh my goodness, what an amazing novel. A story of rediscovery, of rebirth, of finding oneself, its been a long while since I found myself on such an emotional rollercoaster, that I invested so much in a character - the charismatic war veteran Martin Diggs will stay with me for a long time to come.
A truly bitter-sweet read. Given that Last Train To Omaha is set in a palliative care hospital for the veterans of various conflicts (Vietnam and Afghanistan included) and is largely about James 'Jimmy' Milligan, a very damaged man scarred by the death of his childhood friend some 20 years previously, you could be forgiven for thinking it would be a relentlessly depressing novel when in fact its anything but.
Though, without doubt an exceptionally moving read (I'd be surprised if you made it through to the end without the need for a box of tissues) essentially its a story full of such hope. Wonderfully well written, the authors love and compassion for these characters shines through, I'd love to see it as a film.
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