'Train Of Small Mercies': RFK's Last Journey Imagined

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In the news business, time is marked by great events: the anniversaries of elections, wars, hit songs and the births and deaths of famous people.

But each of us also has a personal timeline by which we measure our life: the day we start our first job, fulfill a dream or glimpse history passing by, close enough to touch.

David Rowell's debut novel, The Train of Small Mercies, puts public and personal timelines alongside each other as he recounts June 8, 1968. That's the day a train made a slow, momentous journey from New York to Washington, D.C., to deliver the body of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy for burial beside his slain brother.

Millions of people lined the route. It was the dead middle of an earth-shaking year that had already seen mounting losses in Vietnam, an American president decline to run, a hero martyred when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, chaos, riots and songs. All of the characters in this novel are touched by the times, but also mark them in different, intimate ways.

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