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  • Writer's pictureCharles Arrowsmith

Review: Small World by Jonathan Evison (Washington Post)

On May 10, 1869, the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was marked at a ceremony on high ground in Utah. “The great men, those architects of American progress, [David] Hewes and [Leland] Stanford, delivered speeches,” writes Jonathan Evison in his epic new novel, “Small World.” “They spoke of overcoming the impossible and of shrinking the world one track at a time. At last, they raised their silver hammers above the golden spike, and though they both missed their mark, they pronounced the job complete.”

The fumble is a fine detail, drawn from life, that captures in miniature the imperfection Evison finds at the heart of the American experiment. In his telling, the rise and fall of the railroad over the ensuing century and a half just inscribes that imperfection on a grander scale, the crumbling of infrastructure once dazzling (“Dad, we go eighty in the Prius”) proving to be a good metaphor for a country faltering in its execution and uncertain of its direction.

For the review in full, visit The Washington Post.

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