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The Sunset Route

Freight Trains, Forgiveness, and Freedom on the Rails in the American West

by Carrot Quinn

The Sunset Route by Carrot Quinn X
The Sunset Route by Carrot Quinn
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  • Carrie M. (Rahway, NJ)
    The Sunset Route by Carrot Quinn
    A memoir of the author's, Carrot Quinn's, life from an underprivileged, sometimes homeless youth with a mother who suffers from being schizophrenic wrapped up in religious visions, and the consequent road to self-discovery for the author. Her journey starts with being adopted by her grandparents and then riding the rails as a train-hopper and walking or hitchhiking across the country, meeting many people including family that help her choose life paths to follow. The journeys expose her to different lifestyles and she develops different passions and identities, all of which propel the book's momentum. For some readers may find the author's flipping back and forth through the years disconcerting but it is essential for the unveiling of her life story and road to self-discovery, plus her coming to understand and accept her life's journey so far. An engaging, reflective, and engrossing read that may involve self-discovery and self-reflection by the reader.
  • Anne M. (Madison, WI)
    Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
    The beautiful writing style captured the intense and often difficult realization of being a motherless child. Though Carrot's mother was there, she wasn't. What I found most profound was that she more than survived, and went on to fully understand and make peace with why her mother couldn't be her mother. At times the book was weighed down with mentions of flirtations and revolving short relationships that while important to her life story and her evolution, did little to captivate the reader due to the brevity of their presence in the book. But overall it was a beautiful coming of age story of a girl who had every reason to fall, but didn't. She will be okay. Happy and proud for Carrot!
  • Marganna K. (Edmonds, WA)
    Title & Cover Art Grabbed Me
    I'm not a fan of memoirs as a generality; however the book's title, sub-title & beautiful art work on jacket encouraged me to request this book. As I started reading the book I became intrigued - then the summer house guests arrived & I set it aside. This isn't a book to read piece meal; it deserves better than that. House guests cleared out - book back in hand I read it in two days. It's a very readable book.

    I liked the writing style of alternating childhood vs current times. The way she weaved her early abusive years with the more adventurous times made the story more bearable. Jennifer's (Jenni, AKA Carrot) neglect, abuse, abandonment...& much more were disturbing to put it mildly. I cannot imagine how children survive the situations the author describes much less become functioning adults.

    And yes, I believe Carrot did find her way through this maze of trauma. Although I don't think she has totally cleared out her ghosts she's made an enjoyable life for herself & became a published author.

    I liked the descriptive writing - I have a glimmer of knowledge on several aspects of life I had no info on - rail riding, dumpster diving, abandonment, mental-illness, sleeping under a tarp in the rain, falling through the cracks of social services & the good nature/support of many people who help her find her way to overcome her extreme horrible upbringing.

    My disappointment with the book is I never felt fully engaged with the author. I got a sense of her loneliness, isolation, grief, abuse, property...vulnerability, courage, resilience, but I was never drawn into the book emotionally.

    I would recommend this book to others.
  • Laurie W. (Sunnyvale, CA)
    Roaming the country to find herself
    In part, this book is a glimpse into a different way of life that's totally unfamiliar to me. I had no idea that in the 21st century people were still hopping on freight trains to catch a free ride. I can't imagine doing this – it seems scary and uncomfortable – but it's fascinating to hear from someone whose main means of transportation have been freight trains and hitchhiking. We learn more about Carrot's lifestyle – wandering the country, making friends, living with roommates that become communities, making connections while holding tightly to her independence.

    Underlying all of this is the story of a girl who grew up with a completely absent father and a mother who lives with mental illness. As the grown-up Carrot roams, she reflects on her past and searches to find her place in the world. Toward the end of the book, we feel that she may just be beginning to discover who she is and where she belongs. Recommended for those who like memoirs of struggle and self-reflection, particularly fans of Cheryl Strayed.
  • Barbara C. (Riverside, CA)
    I am not a fan in general. But Carrot seems to remember her life in a colorful way. Many of us suffered similar lives, but did not shoplift or hop on trains. I appreciate her ability to escape part of her problems. But like all of us we don't escape scott-free. Hope she continues to lead a life she can tolerate.
  • Roberta R. (West Bloomfield, MI)
    Unbelievable Story
    The first thing I noticed about the book was the unusual first name of the author ('Carrot") to find out later in the book it was a "handle" adopted by the author at registration for a demonstration (and apparently legally later formally adopted). The next thing I noticed before I even started reading the book was the cover art on the dust jacket, a lone hiker with backpack silhouetted under a train trestle, very lonesome in appearance, the cover art clearly reflective of the book's content.
    The Sunset Route is a "memoir" but almost sounds like a fiction or fantasy book. Great Writing, draws you in from the beginning. That one woman could have such an adventuresome life, and yet so sad of an upbringing and life. Maybe dragged a bit at the end.
  • Molly M. (Anchorage, AK)
    Well-written and compelling, but sad
    This memoir – told in chapters going back and forth between the author's early years in Alaska in an abusive household and later years as a nomadic, train-hopping punk anarchist in Oregon and elsewhere – is well-written and compelling. But readers be forewarned – it's dark and sad. There's not much light here except for the clear, bright Alaska snow and cold and the warmth of a desert wind, and the brief and usually transient friendships. The Alaska descriptions (though there are some inaccuracies) ring mostly true. The family dysfunction and homelessness – largely driven by mental illness and poverty – also ring true. I would have liked more emphasis on what has enabled the author to transcend her background and ultimately set her free.

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