When the Whistle Blows by Fran Slayton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Judging by the somewhat muted and sleepy cover, I thought I was going to read a “pensive, quiet” coming-of-age, historical fiction. It turned out that the story is NOT all that quiet: every episode falls on an All Hallow’s Eve from early-40s to late-40s. You get the thrill of the secret Society’s weird, slightly off and scary way to honor a recently deceased member; you get the Halloween prank gone awry; you get the blood-pumping, almost heart-stopping football game actions; and you get the death and danger working on the steam-engined trains. But then, you also get so much HEART between the main character and his father. It is an entirely “male” book, glaringly so — you hardly see a female character and they hardly have even a speaking turn. It’s all… very, macho, but oddly also very tender. And so much humor and humorous wisdom. I am not ashamed to say that I cried hard at the end of the tale… mourning the passing of a man and of an era so lovingly and convincingly portrayed by the author.