LAST TRAIN TO BABYLON by Charlee Fam

LAST TRAIN TO BABYLON

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

In Fam's debut novel, a recent college graduate "content creator" returns home to Long Island for the funeral of her former best friend and is forced to confront her deeply painful past.

Aubrey wakes up in a psychiatric care facility, bruised and severely hung over, after taking a drunken walk along an elevated train line after the funeral of her high school best friend, Rachel. Aubrey harbors a seething anger toward Rachel and her guidance-counselor mother, Karen, but the reasons are camouflaged by a 20-something cynicism and the despairing consumption of booze. As the narrative progresses, we move between present-day Aubrey and the experimental, bored high school version and meet her then-boyfriend, Adam. Gradually, we learn that Aubrey's transit through young adulthood involved some deeply traumatic experiences which were compounded in part by her inability to trust her best friend. For years, she's walled off her feelings, becoming increasingly emotionally detached. Aubrey's future happiness depends on her ability not only to recognize what happened, but to be able to tell others without fear of reprisal. The first-person narration has a guarded, angry tone: "Who put the word 'fun' in funeral? If you really think about it, funeral sounds like it should be synonymous with 'carnival' or 'funnel cake.' But I can't think of anything fun about Rachel's funeral, except for the fact that she won't be there." The book's strident pacing, combined with its unsparing portrayal of teenage cruelty and thoughtlessness, makes Aubrey's eventual confrontation with her past a welcome relief. However, despite Aubrey's warped perspective, Fam manages to carve out enough space for the supporting characters to believably exist within the maelstrom of Aubrey's raw emotions.

By sardonically inhabiting the solipsistic, emotionally fraught reality of adolescence, Fam creates a startling coming-of-age story that is neither sentimental nor clichéd.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-232807-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2014




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionPROZAC NATION by Elizabeth Wurtzel
by Elizabeth Wurtzel
FictionTHE ICE STORM by Rick Moody
by Rick Moody
NonfictionGIRL, INTERRUPTED by Susanna Kaysen
by Susanna Kaysen