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on January 29, 2008
This novel is a treasure -- it simultaneously captures the hopefulness of a coconut-scented summer's day and the loneliness of a girl who yearns for female intimacy. Who hasn't been there? McLain's descriptions of Jamie's internal and external worlds bring it all back.

Having read all of McLain's poetry and her memoir, her new novel is no surprise. The writing is sensual and heartbreaking, the study of character honest and deep. The secrets that connect Jamie and her uncle will haunt you just as they do their characters.

If you liked Dorothy Allison's Ruth Anne in [...] out of NC or Carson McCullers's Frankie in The Member of the Wedding or Marilyn Robinson's Ruth in Housekeeping, then you'll like Paula McLain's Jamie in A Ticket to Ride.

Read this novel & then go back and read McLain's other work. You won't be sorry.
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on January 17, 2008
It's gorgeously written, so I was somewhat surprised that I didn't love A Ticket to Ride. The main reason was the going back and forth between the present and the past, which I found distracting - just when I was beginning to get involved in Jamie's and Fawn's story, the novel took me back years, to find out about Suzette. And while the end made it clear why this narrative device was necessary, it didn't make it any more engaging.
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Jamie lives with her Uncle Raymond because her mother Suzette left home and has always been a sort of wild child always on the go and never looking back. Jamie is a shy outcast, new in town, out of place, with no sense of belonging. And then her cousin Fawn shows up to stay with them. Fawn is gorgeous and mature, oozes confidence, and loves to flirt. She slowly pulls Jamie out of her shell one summer in the 70s as the two become friends.

There are two stories here, alternating throughout the book. We have the past where Raymond tries to find his sister and offer her protection, and then we have the present which follows Fawn and Jamie and their mischeivious friendship. Each is delicate in its own way, and also somewhat mirrors the other as your read further along.

I found the characters to be well developed and each full of mystery in a way and oh so fragile. I was so anxious to see where their conflicts would take them. This is a nice slow coming-of-age story which is, more than anything, meant to be admired for the writing itself. As the story builds to its climax, we find ourselves with less than 50 pages to read, but the journey there was both heartfelt and meaningful.

This book is about loss, and about friendships we often have as teens despite our parents warning us about that "bad kid" from around the block. It's about music, shag carpet, baby oil tans, and TV shows that definied a generation. It's about connections that we long for as human beings whether it be from a relative or just a good close friend. It's about sneaking out on a Friday night and going somehwere you aren't supposed to.

I would consider this book to be almost a teen reading level, and even targeted more toward girls, but as a man in my 30s I really did fall in love with McLain's style and thought this was a good book. What it lacked in action or in its climax, it certainly made up for in imagery and style.
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In the long hot summer of 1973, two young teenage girls push the boundaries, hoping to experience whatever it will take to make them cool, sexy, and happy.

For Jamie, the exploration is about a motherless girl searching for approval and acceptance, which is why she is so willing to follow the lead of her cousin Fawn, who has ended up in Moline, Illinois because she is trouble personified. Fawn's version of the events that brought her to Illinois casts her in the most positive light possible. And to Jamie, who has been shunted back and forth between relatives after her mother Suzette took off one day years before, Fawn's behavior may send up red flags, but she is ill-equipped to interpret the signs.

A Ticket to Ride: A Novel (P.S.) alternates between Jamie's point of view and her Uncle Raymond's, and as we follow the story arcs of the two characters, the picture fills in and presents the full story. Each chapter is titled with songs from the era, and sometimes, I could almost hear the music lilting in the background.

As the summer draws to a close, these two young girls seeking excitement have stumbled upon a whole world of trouble and tragedy.

As Jamie is trying to sort out and understand what has happened, she and her uncle finally sit down to talk, and in a few moments of soul-searching honesty, Jamie learns the whole saga about her mother and what happened so long ago. Examining the realities of the past and revisiting the moments of one hot summer full of errors in judgment, Jamie will finally begin to discover her place and her identity.

The characters are multilayered, with all the facets of real people trying to make sense of their lives, the choices they've made, and the possibilities that are left for them. Four stars for an insightful story that, while it may not be for everyone, is a relevant coming-of-age tale set during a unique time in history.
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on September 22, 2012
After reading The Paris Wife and mentally sorting it into my five-favorite-books list, I eagerly awaited McClain's next novel. She did not disappoint. A Ticket to Ride is vastly different than The Paris Wife, which I think is a testament to McClain's talent as a writer. This novel absorbed me completely and, unlike a few of the other reviewers, I liked how the story flipped back and forth on the character/time continuum. At times I found the story of Jamie and Fawn to be so full of tension that it was a relief to be interrupted by the Uncle/Suzette thread. Those were the chapters when I was actually able to put the book down and get some shut-eye. Not that they weren't compelling as well, but I was a bit less invested in those characters.

I loved this book and have recommended it to many. Looking forward to the author's next effort.
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on October 27, 2015
How refreshing to read great, solid writing. The story is good, not great, and the characters are full, even when predictable. But the real pleasure is in consuming the talent of Paula McClain. She is clearly one of the best, ranking right up there with one of my favorites, Wally Lamb. I'll be looking for more offerings by Ms. McClain.
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on March 1, 2014
The blurb on this one sold me. Jamie was a seriously naive young girl who was never wanted by her mother and grew up living with her grandparents -- until that's not an option anymore. Whisked away from California to Moline, Illinois to live with her Uncle. Everything is okay. Lackluster, but, okay.

Enter Fawn...The wild child. Jamie adores Fawn. Idolizes her. Wants to be more like her. Fawn steps into Jamie's life and things begin to go downhill from there. Jamie is an impressionable girl who wants to do whatever she can to please Fawn, including sneaking out and doing crazy things. By the time Jamie begins to figure out what Fawn is all about, it's too late.

Interesting book. I liked it a lot -- and look forward to reading more of the author's work.
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on August 13, 2012
I loved "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain. So, I had expected another well-written story with fascinating characters and some compelling plot twists. "A Ticket To Ride" has about 10 pages of well-written and fascinating, but the other 200+ pages are monotonous repetition. Could be good for readers aged 11-14.
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on May 26, 2014
A frustrating book to read. The (2) primary characters seem unable to resist the bad influence of (2) self-absorbed, destructive women. It was painful to read about and, ultimately, depressing. Still, I could relate at some level to Jaime, remembering the insecurities and desire for excitement that are part of being a teenager. This could serve as a cautionary tale if you can stick with the slow story and the relentlessly downbeat tone.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 19, 2009
Summary, no spoilers.

This story takes place primarily in the summer of 1973, and the location is Moline, Illinois. Our 15 year old protagonist Jamie lives with her uncle Raymond. Jamie was raised in Bakersfield by her grandparents, but when the grandmother got ill, Jamie was taken in by Raymond. We know that Jamie's mother was named Suzette and that she basically abandoned Jamie when Jamie was a baby, although she did appear briefly in her life after that. Jamie has fantasized about Suzette and hopes that someday her mother will come to reclaim her. She especially was hoping this would happen when the grandmother fell ill. But Suzette did not appear.

At the beginning of this summer in 1973, Jamie's wild child cousin Fawn, aged 16, comes to live with her and Raymond. We know that Fawn was sent to live in Moline as some sort of punishment for some misbehavior at home, but Fawn's version of events comes into dispute later on in the story. What we do know is that Fawn is beautiful, manipulative, and determined to have a good time.

Plain Jamie becomes enamored with Fawn and her lifestyle, and lets Fawn influence her in both the way she looks and the way she behaves. The problem of course is that Fawn is a selfish, troubled girl, who doesn't really care about anyone else.

We know from the get-go that there is a bad ending to this summer in Moline. We don't know what it is, but the author does a good job of foreshadowing the tragedy. And the denouement is stunning and affecting - I was not expecting it.

Add to all this narrative chapters that take place years earlier, when Raymond is driving out to take care of his younger sister Suzette. We know that Suzette is a mess, and makes poor choices in life to say the least. We also know that Raymond has an almost unnatural devotion to Suzette, and that he feels it is his responsibility to keep saving her. It is at the end of the chapters that cover this period of time that we find out what happened to Suzette.

All in all, I thought this was an interesting book, yet in criticism it just wasn't the page-turner I thought it would be. In fact, I had to struggle a bit to keep reading this book. Once I got towards the end I enjoyed it more, and as I said earlier, the ending really is terrific. But the journey towards that ending just didn't work well for me, and there were times I almost stopped reading. I love books from this time period, so I was surprised I didn't love this more.

I would recommend picking the book up and reading the first few chapters. There really are indicative of the flow and style of the book and you can get an idea if this book is for you.

Meant to add - one of the fun things about this book is that all chapters are titled after lyrics (a line or two) from popular songs from the 1960s and 1970s. I had fun trying to remember the songs (missed a couple), and thought it was a clever way of describing chapter contents and relating them to the time period.
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