By: Rosemary and Larry Mild
Publisher: Magic Island Literary Works
Publication Date: June 2023
Review Date: August 15, 2023
In this dynamic, historical, and highly personal tale, co-authors Rosemary and Larry Mild create a youthful heroine whose venturesome ways will lead her farther, both geographically and personally, than even she might have anticipated.
Bertie Patchet is tall, intelligent, and ambitious. She has completed college and hopes for a teaching career. But her homelife is anything but salubrious, with an abusive stepfather and a booze-addicted mother. And the Great Depression drags on, making job prospects scarce. So one morning she makes a major decision: she will disguise herself as a boy, pack up a few needed items, including a hatchet that she had used to successfully frustrate her stepfather’s nasty advance the previous night, and leave town. But how? Her journey takes hold when she meets Arnie, who will teach her things about riding the rods – hopping into boxcars to ride as far away from trouble as possible. But Bertie will quickly learn that the hop requires great physical strength and agility, and trouble is never far away.
Though generally accepted as a boy, or occasionally seen as a girl by other female travelers, Bertie will have experiences that any true adventurer might envy, and terrors and troubles, including attempted rape and even arrest, that no one would want to share. As she ventures across the US and back, she seeks employment, following rumors with phone calls, and taking such work as is offered, including an inspiring stint with Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Although her goal at times seems unreachable, Bertie’s spirit will guide her in the best directions, and fortunately, occasionally, to some willing, helpful guides. Throughout this remarkably conceived saga, hardly an hour goes by without sudden changes – from danger, daring, ruefulness, and romance.
The Milds are a couple who have settled on Hawaii as a homeplace and writing as a shared creative endeavor. This latest foray must have required diligent research, from credible historical detail to a study of the railroads as they once operated and of hobo-ism as a once important part of American subculture, especially during the Great Depression when some children, a few daring women like Bertie, and many unemployed men took to the rails in hopes of better prospects. The CCC helped many, as it did Bertie and her friends. A satisfying Epilogue details the later successes of the main characters, reminding readers that, “we touch and are touched by all the people we have ever met...”
Quill says: Rosemary and Larry Mild have created in On the Rails the scenery, situations and a rowdy cast of players that combine to offer a unique glimpse into the past, imbued with lasting truths and true grit, seen through the eyes of a feisty, freedom-loving young woman.
For more information on On the Rails: The Adventures of Boxcar Bertie, please visit the author's website at: https://magicile.com/