Four Stars, Low Language, Low Religion, Low Romance, Moderate Violence

A Train I’d Never Want to Ride

Confession: I have never traveled outside of North America. I would someday love to travel. Seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Parthenon, Big Ben, Versailles. Those would be truly twirl worthy moments. My list of places I would love to visit is extensive really, and I’m not picky, I just need to win the lottery first :). There is one place however, that has never been on my list of must see places: Russia. I was a kid when the Soviet Union collapsed and consequently have always pictured Russia as cold and harsh and extreme.

This past week my local book club read A Train to Potevka by Mike Ramsdell.

“A Train to Potevka will take you on an incredible winter’s journey across Great Mother Russia along the 6,000-mile Trans-Siberian Railway. This fascinating story about an American intelligence agent from a small town in the Rockies, is a tale of failed espionage, escape, and second chances.”

This book is loosely based on fact, only loosely because let’s be honest what government agency is going to let someone write a tell-all about their time as an American Spy in Russia. Regardless of what facts are real and what aren’t, the heart of the book and the glimpse it give us into the authentic world of espionage is, crazy enough, about hope and goodness even in the middle of a cold harsh climate.

Even though the author’s vivid description of Russia didn’t change my opinion of the climate or the government I came away touched that no matter the climate or politics or any other situational circumstance, there is always goodness to be found. “The greatness of Russia has always been its people.”

One of the things that I appreciated about this author was his humility, this wasn’t a ‘look how amazing of a spy I am’ kind of book. The author frequently states that if we’re reading the book hoping for James Bond, we’re in the wrong place. The irony is, with scenes like fights in stairwells, Russian Mafia stake outs, double agents and hiding from the KGB, the only thing it’s missing is the “buxom blondes”, and I would much rather read about his sweet relationship with Bonnie than that any day.

The author adds background and necessary historical settings that instead of making me skim to the good stuff, intrigued me and made me anxious to learn more about Russia and this time in its history. I came away from the book with a deep respect for the Russian people at their core, their struggles and the goodness they held onto in the midst of those struggles.

I would highly recommend this book. The author of the book happens to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, and though his religion and commitment to God is mentioned I felt like it added depth to the book and in no way detracted from the story being told. –N.C.

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