Excerpt from Derailed by James Siegel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Derailed

by James Siegel

Derailed by James Siegel X
Derailed by James Siegel
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2003, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2004, 400 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Another story. Hardly a story at all (although it had a title); a kind of introduction to a story. An invitation to one, really. About another innocent man. Who walked on the train one day to go to work. When something happened.

Derailed

The morning Charles met Lucinda, it took him several moments after he first opened his eyes to remember why he liked keeping them closed.

Then his daughter, Anna, called him from the hallway and he thought: Oh yeah. She needed lunch money, a note for the gym teacher, and help with a book report that was due yesterday. Not in that order.

In a dazzling feat of juggling, he managed all three between showering, shaving, and getting dressed. He had to. His wife, Deanna, had already left for her job at P.S. 183, leaving him solely in charge.

When he made it downstairs he noticed Anna's blood meter and a used syringe on the kitchen counter. Anna had made him late.

When he got to the station, his train had already left--he could hear a faint rumble as it retreated into the distance. By the time the next train pulled in, the platform had been repopulated by an entirely new cast of commuters. He knew most of the 8:43 crowd by sight, but this was the 9:05, so he was in alien territory.

He found a seat all by himself and immediately dived into the sports pages.

It was November. Baseball had slipped away with another championship for the home team. Basketball was just revving up, football already promising a year of abject misery. This is the way he remained for the next twenty minutes or so: head down, eyes forward, brain dead-awash in meaningless stats he could reel off like his Social Security number, numbers he could recite in his sleep, and sometimes did, if only to keep himself from reciting other numbers. Which numbers were those?

Well, the numbers on Anna's blood meter, for example. Numbers that were increasingly and alarmingly sky high. Anna had suffered with juvenile diabetes for over eight years. Anna wasn't doing well.

So all things being equal, he preferred a number like 3.25. Roger-the-Rocket - Clemens's league-leading ERA this past season. Or twenty-two - there was a good round number. Latrell Sprewell's current points per game, accumulated, dreadlocks flying, for the New York Knicks.

Numbers he could look at without once feeling sick. The train lurched, stopped.

They were somewhere between stations - dun-colored ranch houses on either side of the track. It suddenly occurred to him that even though he'd ridden this train more times than he cared to remember, he couldn't describe a single neighborhood it passed through. Somewhere along the way to middle age, he'd stopped looking out windows. He burrowed back into the newspaper.

It was at that exact moment, somewhere between Steve Serby's column on the state of the instant replay rule and Michael Strahan's lamentation on his diminishing sack total, that it happened.

Later he would wonder what exactly had made him look up again at that precise moment in time. He would ask himself over and over what would have happened if he hadn't. He would torture himself with all the permutations, the what ifs and what thens and what nows. But he did look up.

The 9:05 from Babylon to Penn Station kept going. Merrick to Freeport to Baldwin to Rockville Centre. Lynbrook to Jamaica to Forest Hills to Penn. But Charles clearly and spectacularly derailed.

Attica

Two nights later after dinner, my four-year-old climbed onto my lap and demanded I do treasure hunt on his back. "We're going on a treasure hunt," I whispered as I traced little steps up and down his spine. "X marks the spot . . ." as he squirmed and giggled. He smelled of shampoo and candy and Play-Doh, the scent that was clearly and uniquely him. "To get to the treasure, you take big steps and little steps," I murmured, and when I finished he asked me where this treasure was exactly, and I answered him on cue. This, after all, was our routine.

Copyright © 2003 by James Siegel

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...
  • Book Jacket: Mothers of Sparta
    Mothers of Sparta
    by Dawn Davies
    What it's about:
    The tagline on the back cover of Mothers of Sparta says it all: "Some women...
  • Book Jacket: Fortress America
    Fortress America
    by Elaine Tyler May
    In Fortress America, Elaine Tyler May presents a fascinating but alarming portrait of America's...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Force of Nature
    by Jane Harper

    A riveting, tension-driven thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

G O T P, B The P, F T P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.