By ASHLEY RIGGLESON FOR FREE LANCE – STAR
In many ways, reading Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, “Wild,” has been a transformative experience for me. So I was skeptical when I heard that Carrot Quinn’s new memoir, “The Sunset Route,” which chronicles his experience on freight trains, was being compared to this great work of non-fiction. But I liked Quinn’s book so much that I want to pass it on to others.
“The Sunset Route” opens in the middle of the action. Quinn is on a freight train in Oregon, and as readers quickly learn the ins and outs of operating freight trains, we initially have no idea how or why Quinn came to take trains. We only know how gritty it is, how risky it is, how cold it is. But we soon begin to learn more about Quinn as she looks back on her childhood in alternate chapters, and the portrayal she presents is of a fractured family.
Quinn is 6 when the first flashback begins. Her father is absent and her mother is schizophrenic. Quinn is often hungry, as there is often not enough food for her. As the memories progress, we learn that Quinn and her brother are being abused in other ways as well.
As an adult, Quinn leads a marginal life, sometimes working but also diving in dumpsters and shoplifting to eat. She feels she needs to be on the move, so she takes freight trains and hitchhikes from place to place, rarely staying for long. And yet she begins to heal.