A journey back in time to innocence lost...
In his rite of passage in the summer of 1966, naïve, white eighteen-year-old Buster Gaines from St. Louis discovers the thrills found in being free to make his own decisions when he leaves home with the railroad to earn money for college, but he soon innocently discovers the dark side of 1960s southern reality and his life takes a surreal turn when he gets caught up in the unforgiving, punishing code of the Jim Crow South.
Although Buster's primary goal is to earn money for college, he embraces the chance to trade some of the innocence of his upbringing for the new experiences and challenges of being on his own in a strange city. He finds companionship with two women, each so different and yet similar to him, and with railroaders that accept him as one of their own.
Ironically, it's Buster's basic decency and innocence
that lead to trouble. He doesn't seem to understand the intractable code for social behavior operating in the South. In a spirit of good will, naivete, and a desire to learn, Buster tries to befriend an older black railroad employee, but when warnings against fraternization are ignored, an authoritarian stationmaster decides to punish him and arranges a transfer to the much rougher rail yards of Shreveport, Louisiana. Preceded by his reputation as an unwanted northern outsider, Buster finds he has been sent to a world alien to him. He is confronted immediately by the contempt of the district railroad superintendent and quickly learns he has no acceptance among the man’s underlings, the members of his new crews. Along with it, there is no mutual trust so necessary in a dangerous job. His life takes a surreal turn when their disdain for him begins to manifest itself in acts of ostracism and defamation — and then ultimately in physical confrontation. Cherishing his job as a railroader while fearing for his safety and even his life, Buster struggles with the reality of being alone in that hostile world.
What readers are saying...
Readers' Favorite Book Reviews:
I love the concept of Jim Yonker’s gritty and true-to-life tale, Southern Passage, which could well have happened. I believe the premise will be of great interest to college students who are researching one of the following areas: the history of the railroads, the divide between the North and South and/or the racial prejudices and appalling acts of racism by white people towards black people during the '60s era. I also believe Southern Passage will appeal to avid readers who are 18+ and love first rate historical fiction books.
"Southern Passage"... A great read, a must read! I look forward to reading more from Jim Yonker. Set in the 1960’s, the author brings out the personalities of each character so well that I found myself not wanting to put the book down.
All will appreciate the coming of age of Buster in an era of change, with the same internal struggles that are timeless. The values in this story are promoted just strongly enough to create a genuine caring for the young main character (Buster) and the friends he finds along his journey on his southern passage.
A very interesting and unique coming of age story. The setting appealed to me as a baby boomer bringing to life a troubling time in our county's history. The characters stayed with me long after I finished the book.
The lively characters’ strengths and flaws are prominent and they linger with you long after you put the book down. All in all a very memorable first effort from this author and a good and entertaining read.
Very enjoyable read. Giving to my grandsons to enjoy and learn.
For anyone who remembers or would like to know the life of railroad men in the yards in the 60s.