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The Sunset Route: Freight Trains, Forgiveness, and Freedom on the Rails in the American West

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The unforgettable story of one woman who leaves behind her hardscrabble childhood in Alaska to travel the country via freight train--a beautiful memoir about forgiveness, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of nature. After a childhood marked by neglect, poverty, and periods of homelessness, with a mother who believed herself to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, The unforgettable story of one woman who leaves behind her hardscrabble childhood in Alaska to travel the country via freight train--a beautiful memoir about forgiveness, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of nature. After a childhood marked by neglect, poverty, and periods of homelessness, with a mother who believed herself to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, Carrot Quinn moved out on her own. She found a sense of belonging among straight-edge anarchists who taught her how to traverse the country by freight trains, sleep in fields under the stars, and feed herself by foraging in dumpsters. Her new life was one of thrilling adventure and freedom, but still she was haunted by the ghosts of her lonely and traumatic childhood. The Sunset Route is a powerful and brazenly honest adventure memoir set in the unseen corners of the United States--in the Alaskan cold, on trains rattling through forests and deserts, as well as in low-income apartments and crowded punk houses--following a remarkable protagonist who has witnessed more tragedy than she thought she could ever endure and who must learn to heal her own heart. Ultimately, it is a meditation on the natural world as a spiritual anchor, and on the ways that forgiveness can set us free.


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The unforgettable story of one woman who leaves behind her hardscrabble childhood in Alaska to travel the country via freight train--a beautiful memoir about forgiveness, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of nature. After a childhood marked by neglect, poverty, and periods of homelessness, with a mother who believed herself to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, The unforgettable story of one woman who leaves behind her hardscrabble childhood in Alaska to travel the country via freight train--a beautiful memoir about forgiveness, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of nature. After a childhood marked by neglect, poverty, and periods of homelessness, with a mother who believed herself to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, Carrot Quinn moved out on her own. She found a sense of belonging among straight-edge anarchists who taught her how to traverse the country by freight trains, sleep in fields under the stars, and feed herself by foraging in dumpsters. Her new life was one of thrilling adventure and freedom, but still she was haunted by the ghosts of her lonely and traumatic childhood. The Sunset Route is a powerful and brazenly honest adventure memoir set in the unseen corners of the United States--in the Alaskan cold, on trains rattling through forests and deserts, as well as in low-income apartments and crowded punk houses--following a remarkable protagonist who has witnessed more tragedy than she thought she could ever endure and who must learn to heal her own heart. Ultimately, it is a meditation on the natural world as a spiritual anchor, and on the ways that forgiveness can set us free.

30 review for The Sunset Route: Freight Trains, Forgiveness, and Freedom on the Rails in the American West

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Reading this wrenching memoir, I was constantly amazed by the fortitude if this young woman, but also the strength she had to constantly start over again. She writes with honesty, vulnerability and puts it all out there, no holds barred. Her life with a schizophrenic mother, she and her brother victims of abuse, starvation, homelessness and this from an early age. When finally taken in by her grandparents, she is fed, clothed but still denied the love she craves. Drugs and alcohol are never her p Reading this wrenching memoir, I was constantly amazed by the fortitude if this young woman, but also the strength she had to constantly start over again. She writes with honesty, vulnerability and puts it all out there, no holds barred. Her life with a schizophrenic mother, she and her brother victims of abuse, starvation, homelessness and this from an early age. When finally taken in by her grandparents, she is fed, clothed but still denied the love she craves. Drugs and alcohol are never her problem, she only wants to live the best life she can on her own terms. Her lifestyle is not one I could ever embrace, jumping trains, hitchhiking, living place to place, dumpster diving. Trying to come to terms with her past, while finding a viable future. By books end she does find some, but not all of her answers, but she lives a life and lifestyle that suits her at this time. I should add that she can definitely write, this book draws one in and makes us see both the pain and searching her life entails. Joy too, though she may not have many material things or many of the things we take for granted, by choice at this point I think, she is rich in both friends and experiences. ARC from book browse.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Isabella

    this is going on my list of all-time great memoirs

  3. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    3.5 stars Thank you to BookBrowse for giving me this book to read and review. Published on July 6, 2021. Carrot Quinn was running. Maybe not running from, but trying to run to. Carrot - born Jenni - had a miserable childhood. A schizophrenic mother, a brother raised apart from her, and grandparents who were cold and unloving. In her early teens Carrot had had enough. She took to the rails. She spent her next eight or so years mostly living on other peoples couches, eating from dumpsters, and hidi 3.5 stars Thank you to BookBrowse for giving me this book to read and review. Published on July 6, 2021. Carrot Quinn was running. Maybe not running from, but trying to run to. Carrot - born Jenni - had a miserable childhood. A schizophrenic mother, a brother raised apart from her, and grandparents who were cold and unloving. In her early teens Carrot had had enough. She took to the rails. She spent her next eight or so years mostly living on other peoples couches, eating from dumpsters, and hiding in tree lines waiting for the next train to take her to where she thought she needed to go. Carrot saw a lot of the US and felt the freedom from confinement, but she also felt loss. The loss of a mother, the loss of family, the loss of a home. She was always searching. Those losses stayed with her. This is a raw exposure of a memoir, offset by the beauty of both nature and mankind, as seen by one young woman trying to outrun her troubles. The life of Carrot Quinn has been one of heartbreak wrapped in self discovery.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beth Wang

    A tremendously brave story, exposing the brutality of how our society deals with mental health crises, drug/alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, parenting support lacks - and also illuminating how resilient we can be, especially with the support of community, no matter how unconventional. The time jumping around was a little confusing, but maybe that was the best way for Carrot to come to grips with, and share, her story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leig

    This is a memoir about grief and neglect, and about being a lost, poor, young, white woman in America—a spiritual successor to Kerouac but more soberly written. I've read both of this book's comps, and though aimlessness is arguably thematically appropriate, this memoir's most prominent shortcoming is its comparative lack of drive. My review is mixed: it is a personal read about hard topics, and there's a story here worth telling full of adventure. It taught me a lot about riding the rails. But This is a memoir about grief and neglect, and about being a lost, poor, young, white woman in America—a spiritual successor to Kerouac but more soberly written. I've read both of this book's comps, and though aimlessness is arguably thematically appropriate, this memoir's most prominent shortcoming is its comparative lack of drive. My review is mixed: it is a personal read about hard topics, and there's a story here worth telling full of adventure. It taught me a lot about riding the rails. But a number of elements didn't work for me—the shortage of narrative reflection in the text and structural issues had me skimming through significant swaths, while the lack of significant direction meant the story ended without a strong sense of closure. You could feel potential here, but it never quite actualized for me. This memoir was strongest in the middle. You can tell it was fleshed out from a shorter work, which created some pacing and structural issues, as well as a bit of a haphazard narrative drive. The structure of the book plays with time in more than one sense: it is a nonlinear narrative, but even when we're in a linear section, time blends together—days, weeks, or months pass without much remark. This is both one of the more interesting things about the memoir and the area that left me the coldest: often I wished there was some editorializing on the experiences to give a stronger sense of time, of reflection, a deeper delve into the significance of what was on the page. In places, it read a bit like an accounting of what happened, a more direct transliteration from journal to narrative memoir. Accordingly I had a hard time pulling out specific instances of significance and, at times, was lulled into the drudging rhythm of misery that sometimes pervades modern literature. That said, I too was once a young, lost, white woman on the west coast, so there were elements of this story that spoke to me. There was one particular moment of grace that I wish had been drawn forward and given greater narrative significance: the book nearly begins and ends in Alaska (I wish, for thematic reasons, it had begun and end in Alaska). Near the end, the narrator, now an adult, is looking for her mother after two decades away from her, having traveled the country and fended for herself. This was a brilliant bookend, and was the first moment in the memoir I had a sense of a cohesive story and connectivity. If more had been textually made of the idea that these travels were spent looking for something, only for the book to begin and end in the same place, it would have felt like the story and misery had a greater sense of direction. As it is, there didn't feel like there was a ton deeper than what was on the surface: an accounting of events. It's hard to rate a recounting of a person's experiences. I found the protagonist's troubles and reactions relatable—the way she throws herself against the world looking for someone who will love her is heart-rending and the definite guiding light of the book. But the format didn't quite serve the story, and its strongest beacons are somewhat buried under procedural elements and a peculiar sense of time. Notably, for a book with 'freedom' in the title, I felt the narrator spent most of the book being demonstrably unfree—diving more into the idea of "freedom," exploring it, and troubling it is one of the things I felt was missing in this book. Come to this book for the adventure narrative and don't, unlike me, think about its bookness too hard, and it's a quick, emotional read—a different perspective on America written in easily digested prose. Thank you to NetGalley and Dial Press for the ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    Carrot Quinn has had an interesting life with plenty of fodder to make a truly readable memoir. In this book, she shares her experiences riding the rails by jumping on freight trains. Mixed in are memories from her less-than-perfect childhood. Her younger years are weaved with poverty and neglect. She was moved from place to place and never felt settled. Through her experiences we see her learning more about herself and developing an appreciation for the natural world. This novel is in turns hea Carrot Quinn has had an interesting life with plenty of fodder to make a truly readable memoir. In this book, she shares her experiences riding the rails by jumping on freight trains. Mixed in are memories from her less-than-perfect childhood. Her younger years are weaved with poverty and neglect. She was moved from place to place and never felt settled. Through her experiences we see her learning more about herself and developing an appreciation for the natural world. This novel is in turns heartbreaking, inspirational, raw and adventurous. What to listen to while reading... Head Over Feet by Alanis Morissette All Apologies by Nirvana Peaches by The Presidents of the United States If I Ruled the World by Nas Fire Water Burn by Bloodhound Gang Hopeless Romantic by The Bouncing Souls Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Always and forever, I will think of this book every time I see a freight train passing by. But life riding on the train is not the most important theme of this memoir. The more pressing theme is the mistreatment and neglect the author received as a child. I have questions, many questions about Carrot Quinn’s life. How could her mother ever have sole custody of Carrot and her brother Jordan? Why does this family have material possessions like a sewing machine and thousands of cigarettes for her m Always and forever, I will think of this book every time I see a freight train passing by. But life riding on the train is not the most important theme of this memoir. The more pressing theme is the mistreatment and neglect the author received as a child. I have questions, many questions about Carrot Quinn’s life. How could her mother ever have sole custody of Carrot and her brother Jordan? Why does this family have material possessions like a sewing machine and thousands of cigarettes for her mother, when they have no food? How many other children in America are as neglected as these children? Can some details of a memoir be embellished? And most importantly, isn’t it wonderful that Carrot Quinn can write such an intriguing memoir? She uses so many wonderful metaphors. I think this book is right up there with Educated as an eye-opening memoir. The Sunset Route publishes this week, July 6th. Thanks to Book Browse for giving this book to me. It’s a gem of a memoir!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kaeleigh Reynolds

    Shiiiiiiit, one of those memoirs that you want to look away, but you can't. A pretty crazy look into poverty in rural areas (AK?!) and growing up around severe mental illness. I loved how Carrot reinvents herself through different times - like 4 mini lives lived in 1/3 of a lifespan. I think my favorite scene in the book is when she is in the car with her cousin moving to Portland and everything she has thought about society, the way things work, how things COULD be different is exposed for the Shiiiiiiit, one of those memoirs that you want to look away, but you can't. A pretty crazy look into poverty in rural areas (AK?!) and growing up around severe mental illness. I loved how Carrot reinvents herself through different times - like 4 mini lives lived in 1/3 of a lifespan. I think my favorite scene in the book is when she is in the car with her cousin moving to Portland and everything she has thought about society, the way things work, how things COULD be different is exposed for the first time. I think I learned enough about trains that I could ride one. And I love how it ends (or just how life number 5 begins?) - finding through-hiking, and all the space trails have to hold you and your shit, is pivotal.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Holly Whitaker

    One of those rare books you cannot put down; I stayed up until 2am reading. There’s really no right words to paint what it feels like when someone describes your insides in the way Carrot does. There’s this suspension between the heaviness of life and expansive limitless freedom the world wants to offer and Carrot flicks between these two places so effortlessly you both feel all the pain and all the joy, beauty in a way that almost reconciles it all. I wish I could read it for the first time aga One of those rare books you cannot put down; I stayed up until 2am reading. There’s really no right words to paint what it feels like when someone describes your insides in the way Carrot does. There’s this suspension between the heaviness of life and expansive limitless freedom the world wants to offer and Carrot flicks between these two places so effortlessly you both feel all the pain and all the joy, beauty in a way that almost reconciles it all. I wish I could read it for the first time again. I wish I could give it ten stars.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Terris

    I enjoyed this book very much! It is Carrot Quinn's story of how she grew up, raised (or not raised!) by a schizophrenic mother, how her early years so affected the rest of her life, and how she learned to deal and live with it. It is a sad story, but it also feels like an awakening. And it reminds the reader of all the people out there who have had such difficult situations to deal with and how each of us should be more empathetic and understanding of everyone around us. We're all so different a I enjoyed this book very much! It is Carrot Quinn's story of how she grew up, raised (or not raised!) by a schizophrenic mother, how her early years so affected the rest of her life, and how she learned to deal and live with it. It is a sad story, but it also feels like an awakening. And it reminds the reader of all the people out there who have had such difficult situations to deal with and how each of us should be more empathetic and understanding of everyone around us. We're all so different and come from a different place. Carrot Quinn learned that riding the rails, travelling the country, and thru-hiking were her ways of finding herself and living life the way she needed to do it. Wouldn't it be nice if we all could find that "thing" that we needed in life? :)

  11. 4 out of 5

    sarah

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an eArc in exchange for review. This was certainly interesting! A lot of the chapters were pretty repetitive though, so it often felt like I was reading the same train-hopping story over and over. I would have liked more chapters about the author’s current life doing long distance hiking as well. All in all, not totally for me, but interesting nonetheless! Be aware that this book deals heavily with child abuse.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Lovely and jarring and beautiful and weird and worth reading.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This was the book of the month for my Indie bookstore book club(WAW). I am so happy they chose this book: THE SUNSET ROUTE by Carrot Quinn. I enjoyed reading about Carrot's freight train experiences and adventures - she certainly embraces the unknown with all of herself. It was not always easy reading about her childhood, how they lived with their mentally ill mother, most of the time hungry and basically neglected and overlooked by those around them as well as family. It is very disheartening to This was the book of the month for my Indie bookstore book club(WAW). I am so happy they chose this book: THE SUNSET ROUTE by Carrot Quinn. I enjoyed reading about Carrot's freight train experiences and adventures - she certainly embraces the unknown with all of herself. It was not always easy reading about her childhood, how they lived with their mentally ill mother, most of the time hungry and basically neglected and overlooked by those around them as well as family. It is very disheartening to know this is happening in our country - fellow members of communities needing help, needing assistance and support and pretty much being ignored. Our country needs to be better. Thank you to Carrot for writing this book and sharing her journey. I found her descriptions of her surroundings almost poetic - she certainly has a gift for writing. Yes, sometimes the time period would change within a chapter but it was easy to follow. I appreciate her sharing her soul through words. I hope this book becomes a BEST SELLER. I also hope this isn't her last book as I can see Carrot becoming an important mentor, leader, speaker for her community. She is awesome.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eli

    This book makes me wish I had a book like this to read every day.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Carrot Quinn always writes with a lyricism that casts even the ugliest corners of her world into compelling light. Every time I read something from her, I feel a strong sense that the world is simultaneously terrible and beautiful, and that's okay, do not be afraid (a paraphrased quote that she included in a chapter heading.) I started following the author's blog while she was living off the grid in Fairbanks, Alaska, and writing about her train travels in early aughts. So it was interesting to Carrot Quinn always writes with a lyricism that casts even the ugliest corners of her world into compelling light. Every time I read something from her, I feel a strong sense that the world is simultaneously terrible and beautiful, and that's okay, do not be afraid (a paraphrased quote that she included in a chapter heading.) I started following the author's blog while she was living off the grid in Fairbanks, Alaska, and writing about her train travels in early aughts. So it was interesting to be to gain more insight into this period as well as her childhood and young adulthood. That she emerged from her many traumas with an enduring love for the world leaves such a sense of peace and hope. Doubtlessly I'll return to read this book again and again. This passage, among others, left me in tears: “I had learned that you couldn't escape the darkness entirely, but you could learn to live above it. Grief was an ocean but you could reach the surface and bob there, where the light was.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I really enjoyed this book and wrote about it and the whole genre of "hobo" books for Los Angeles Review of Books. Here's a link: https://www.lareviewofbooks.org/artic.... I really enjoyed this book and wrote about it and the whole genre of "hobo" books for Los Angeles Review of Books. Here's a link: https://www.lareviewofbooks.org/artic....

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tina Bledsoe

    I always wondered about the lives of people who ride the rails. Carrot tells it like it is; doesn’t seem as fun as I thought it would be. She’s been dealt a hard life but seems to make the best of it. She doesn’t give into drugs or alcohol which surprised me given the hard childhood she had.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Garret

    I knew of the author previously through her long distance hiking blog, though I haven't read her self-published hiking-based memoir book. This is a vivid account the author's abusive and destitute childhood and her attempt to deal with that trauma as a young adult. The writing is clear, and not filled with overly sentimental prose, though it does sometimes cross the (my) saccharine line. It jumps back and forth between her childhood and her twenties; sometimes that feels a little contrived but it I knew of the author previously through her long distance hiking blog, though I haven't read her self-published hiking-based memoir book. This is a vivid account the author's abusive and destitute childhood and her attempt to deal with that trauma as a young adult. The writing is clear, and not filled with overly sentimental prose, though it does sometimes cross the (my) saccharine line. It jumps back and forth between her childhood and her twenties; sometimes that feels a little contrived but it mostly works. I enjoyed it. I'm a slow reader, so the fact that I read it in 3 days means many people will read it in a single day. I wish I was more clear what the author learned though. *I* learned that hopping freight trains is dangerous, loud, dirty, filled with days-long stretches of sitting under a bush in the middle of nowhere waiting, and not at all something I'd want to do. It also makes it clear that abuse flows down across generations. But what did the author learn? There's one or two lines about what she learned in the last chapter, but I would have like to been shown that instead or at least in addition to being too-briefly told it. There are some things in there that make sense given her situation (shoplifting, anarchist political views) but I'm curious what she thinks about them now. Maybe that's just me because the author runs in some of the same circles as me so I know a little about her currently. And maybe without that perspective you'd think the book had all the resolution you needed. For me, 4/5.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    I've followed Carrot's long distance hiking writing for awhile and was really eager to read about her experience riding the rails. Her clear and straightforward writing style is devastatingly effective in conveying her childhood growing up with a schizophrenic mother. I don't generally rate or review memoirs since it's a person's life. But this is a good read and I had trouble putting it down, and wanted to give it a recommendation. CW: child abuse I've followed Carrot's long distance hiking writing for awhile and was really eager to read about her experience riding the rails. Her clear and straightforward writing style is devastatingly effective in conveying her childhood growing up with a schizophrenic mother. I don't generally rate or review memoirs since it's a person's life. But this is a good read and I had trouble putting it down, and wanted to give it a recommendation. CW: child abuse

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    A memoir of the author’s, Carrot Quinn’s, life from an underprivileged, sometimes homeless youth with a mother who suffers from being schizophrenic wrapped up in religious visions, and the consequent road to self-discovery for the author. Her journey starts with being adopted by her grandparents and then riding the rails as a train-hopper and walking or hitchhiking across the country, meeting many people including family that help her choose life paths to follow. The journeys expose her to diffe A memoir of the author’s, Carrot Quinn’s, life from an underprivileged, sometimes homeless youth with a mother who suffers from being schizophrenic wrapped up in religious visions, and the consequent road to self-discovery for the author. Her journey starts with being adopted by her grandparents and then riding the rails as a train-hopper and walking or hitchhiking across the country, meeting many people including family that help her choose life paths to follow. The journeys expose her to different lifestyles and she develops different passions and identities, all of which propel the book’s momentum. For some readers may find the author’s flipping back and forth through the years disconcerting but it is essential for the unveiling of her life story and road to self-discovery, plus her coming to understand and accept her life’s journey so far. An engaging, reflective, and engrossing read that may involve self-discovery and self-reflection by the reader.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ayesha Cording

    I haven't devoured a book so fast since I was a kid. Magnificent, tender and brilliant. I even dreamed about it last night in the short few hours of sleep I got between reading it. It was weirdly comforting to see complex echos of my own childhood explained in a way that I had never felt I had been able to express. This will stay with me for a long time. I haven't devoured a book so fast since I was a kid. Magnificent, tender and brilliant. I even dreamed about it last night in the short few hours of sleep I got between reading it. It was weirdly comforting to see complex echos of my own childhood explained in a way that I had never felt I had been able to express. This will stay with me for a long time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ann Marie

    Special thanks to Random House and Random House Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. I have to say, I love a good book where there is about young girls, escaping their homes because of abuse or just plain insanity and make it on their own without money or a place to stay. This book is about just that! It's about a girl living with a mother who is not all there and when her daughter finally leaves with nothing, she lives of the land. Learning how to survive with nothing, she gets he Special thanks to Random House and Random House Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC of this book. I have to say, I love a good book where there is about young girls, escaping their homes because of abuse or just plain insanity and make it on their own without money or a place to stay. This book is about just that! It's about a girl living with a mother who is not all there and when her daughter finally leaves with nothing, she lives of the land. Learning how to survive with nothing, she gets her food from the land, foraging and riding on train cars to get from here to there. Author Carol Quinn describes the wilderness and countryside to chilly places with a deft hand. But people who leave their homes can make it outside, but can it heal their insides and their heart from living a traumatic life? What happens when they go back? Can the reason why they left ever heal them by going back someday. I loved this book. I loved the desperation and the knowledge and description of living without a home, and the elements and how to endure without a roof over your head by choice. 5 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carole Knoles

    After reading The Sunset Route, I may never pass by a person who appears to be following an obviously different path than my own without wondering what story they have to tell. At least that is how I feel after turning the last page. I want this memoir to be a best seller. It must be a best seller. It deserves to be a best seller. I marvel at what a talented writer the author is. Her story is a thrilling adventure of childhood, counter culture, riding the rails, and pushing one’s body to it’s li After reading The Sunset Route, I may never pass by a person who appears to be following an obviously different path than my own without wondering what story they have to tell. At least that is how I feel after turning the last page. I want this memoir to be a best seller. It must be a best seller. It deserves to be a best seller. I marvel at what a talented writer the author is. Her story is a thrilling adventure of childhood, counter culture, riding the rails, and pushing one’s body to it’s limits. The story does not lag for an instant and is the best book that I have read in a very long time. Surprisingly, I don’t know what drew me to requesting this read and I am not sure that it is something that would have been on my radar but I will preaching about it to whom ever I can. Do not miss it. Cannot thank The Dial Press and Net Galley enough for giving me this experience.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    Yes, this is a book about trains, and the American west, and frontiers. But it's so much more. Carrot Quinn was...you can't say was 'raised' by a single mother...she was neglected, frightened, starved by a mother who was mentally ill and incapable of having any kind of relationship, even with her two children. When Carrot was finally adopted by her mother's parents, we see that HER life was terribly hard as well. There is something generational about neglect and poor parenting. Quinn ended up livi Yes, this is a book about trains, and the American west, and frontiers. But it's so much more. Carrot Quinn was...you can't say was 'raised' by a single mother...she was neglected, frightened, starved by a mother who was mentally ill and incapable of having any kind of relationship, even with her two children. When Carrot was finally adopted by her mother's parents, we see that HER life was terribly hard as well. There is something generational about neglect and poor parenting. Quinn ended up living on the street, in her car, on a friend's futon. In a tiny attic room. She takes lousy jobs. She dumpster-dives. She shoplifts. She survives. She finds friends who love and support her. And she hitches rides on trains. She hitch-hikes. She experiences the West from inside fast-moving trains, hiding in boxcars. Eating canned beans stolen along the way. She seems to have no ambitions, other than being with others, and being on the move. She has demons to face...and she tries. She tries to connect with her long-lost father and his family, and with her mother...now completely homeless, on and off her meds. Forgiveness? I think she comes to terms with her mother's inabilities to parent, her father's abandonment, her grandparents' skewed ideas about raising teens. Freedom? I guess her idea of freedom is to live outside the boundaries others consider a 'good life.' She doesn't lack for friends, she gets by. She has amazing adventures that scare the be-jeesus out of me. I kept seeing my students in her eyes, her heart. I wondered how many of my students faced the kind of childhood Quinn survived. The grandmother in me wants so much more for Carrot Quinn. But if she's content and at peace, my wishes don't matter. The entitled woman who was raised by parents (sometimes a single mom) who cared, and were much more able to raise me and provide for me, and model for me, weeps for Quinn and all her friends who never had the opportunities I did. This is one I would have shared with my students, and eagerly waited for their reactions.

  25. 4 out of 5

    N Poplars

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Really 2.5 stars, but for this book, I would not round up. I finished in two sittings, mostly to finish but also, it was a rather easy read. The book is loaded with metaphors. Although I found bits about the modern train hobo lifestyle interesting, I found the author a rather unlikeable person. Her 'adult' life is marked by unapologetic shop-lifting for whatever she needs, simply stealing as a way of life, and living off of other people. She outright rejects the notion of work for pay. (Sidenote Really 2.5 stars, but for this book, I would not round up. I finished in two sittings, mostly to finish but also, it was a rather easy read. The book is loaded with metaphors. Although I found bits about the modern train hobo lifestyle interesting, I found the author a rather unlikeable person. Her 'adult' life is marked by unapologetic shop-lifting for whatever she needs, simply stealing as a way of life, and living off of other people. She outright rejects the notion of work for pay. (Sidenote, I'm thankful I borrowed and did not pay for her book, which I'm certain she can appreciate). This 'story' was more about the author's impoverished upbringing by her schizo mother, and her running away, searching for something, perhaps a story to write. After Quinn's mother is sent away, her grandparents taker her in. She then leaves their home, after punching her grandmother in the face (as Carrot had also done to her mother). Making her way to punk houses, she learns to shoplift, steal, have group sex, and how to travel for free across the country. I found the memoir to be less than forthright after having read more about her online. For example, nowhere in this book does she talk about the writing courses she took or her writing aspirations, yet apparently this was something she told everyone in the punk houses, to leave her alone so she could write her book. Perhaps Tara's success and other writer's success in the same genre made an impression on her? I'm not sure where the "Forgiveness" part of the book title comes in. Nowhere in the writing does she seem to have any remorse for rampant stealing and assaulting family members. Or is she alluding to her forgiveness of her mother? For what? Being mentally ill? Father? For giving her up? She, no doubt, was dealt a bad hand. But in her adulting, I think the truth is Carrot Quinn found it difficult to abide by rules and became an abuser and taker. She keeps running (or walking rather) as she doesn't believe in "exchanging labor for capital", and will always be looking for the route that she doesn't have to pay for. So buy this book if you'd like to support her goals.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Roesel

    Carrot Quinn's memoir, THE SUNSET ROUTE is one of the most brilliant books I've read. For Carrot to write so poetically while revealing such desperation, it's not an easy book to absorb. Carrot grows up in Alaska with a schizophrenic mentally-ill mother who speaks to the Virgin Mary, a brother and has no father. She's neglected, hungry more often than not, living moment to moment, surviving. She leaves Alaska at fourteen years old after her mother attempts to strangle her. At that point, Carrot m Carrot Quinn's memoir, THE SUNSET ROUTE is one of the most brilliant books I've read. For Carrot to write so poetically while revealing such desperation, it's not an easy book to absorb. Carrot grows up in Alaska with a schizophrenic mentally-ill mother who speaks to the Virgin Mary, a brother and has no father. She's neglected, hungry more often than not, living moment to moment, surviving. She leaves Alaska at fourteen years old after her mother attempts to strangle her. At that point, Carrot makes her way to Portland, falls into a counter culture existence living in punk houses, eating from dumpsters, shoplifting and traveling the country by rail. Carrot is introduced to the memoir, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard which gently leads her to embracing nature, feeling one with the trees and water. This memoir is her bible throughout the story. She lives in forests, homeless camps, exists out of society. THE SUNSET ROUTE has a running theme of loneliness, isolation and grief. Carrot believes she is "unlovable trash" and is constantly trying to connect with another human. When she does, it is short lived and she ends up disappointed. Her description of hopping trains, meeting other hobos, living an alternative lifestyle is all interesting, but unsettling at best. Towards the end she hasn't seen her mother in eighteen years and feels shame wondering if she should be taking care of her. She learns her mother is alive, and searches for her in Alaska, always a step behind. At the end of the memoir, she discovers long distance hiking making the 10,000 mile trip between Mexico and Canada three times. "I am new, clean and empty as the wind." THE SUNSET ROUTE left me rattled after reading Carrot's journey and grateful for my own existence.

  27. 4 out of 5

    mis

    Of course I'm gonna love this-- train hopping, punk houses, dumpster diving, and hiking. It's a story about pain and grief, but also the beauty in the world and perseverance to move forward. I love the author's writing and her bravery through both difficult times and adventure. Of course I'm gonna love this-- train hopping, punk houses, dumpster diving, and hiking. It's a story about pain and grief, but also the beauty in the world and perseverance to move forward. I love the author's writing and her bravery through both difficult times and adventure.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hanna

    Carrot Quinn has been on of my favorite thru hikers to follow online for a while now. Amazing to read her so good and so sad memoir

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I loved this book! Carrot Quinn has been in my radar for a long time as not only a writer I love reading but also as a friend I would love to have. She is interesting & strange in all the best ways & I want to read every scrap of paper she has written on. This book was full of adventures, grief, spirituality via nature, and a true look at what it means to come into adulthood as a decent human while having such a hard upbringing. I love the writing in this book the most-- lines like "My heart bec I loved this book! Carrot Quinn has been in my radar for a long time as not only a writer I love reading but also as a friend I would love to have. She is interesting & strange in all the best ways & I want to read every scrap of paper she has written on. This book was full of adventures, grief, spirituality via nature, and a true look at what it means to come into adulthood as a decent human while having such a hard upbringing. I love the writing in this book the most-- lines like "My heart because the Grand Canyon. My heart was massive, yet contained nothing." I loved the constant imagery and poetry of every paragraph and the way the scenery was constantly painted on a canvas in front of the reader as the story unwound. Carrot, I hope you read this and remember that you are worth it always. Your story has power and meaning and so much love & you give your readers all of it in your telling. Thank you for this book. Thank you for all of these words. I can't wait to read more of them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    The parts about Carrot's childhood were so hard to read! If you work with children, I'd recommend you at least read those parts of the book. Her Mom's mental health issues meant that her and her brother went hungry and were filthy. Local adults were not helpful or curious enough. My thoughts and prayers go out to the child she was and the adult she is now. I hope this book helped her make peace with all of the things that were beyond her control. The book does not go in chronological order. Altho The parts about Carrot's childhood were so hard to read! If you work with children, I'd recommend you at least read those parts of the book. Her Mom's mental health issues meant that her and her brother went hungry and were filthy. Local adults were not helpful or curious enough. My thoughts and prayers go out to the child she was and the adult she is now. I hope this book helped her make peace with all of the things that were beyond her control. The book does not go in chronological order. Although I read the whole book, you could pick and choose which chapters to read. Her childhood helps explain the rest of Carrot's life choices. The train riding parts were exciting and sometimes scary. She describes the beauty so well. She wrote a portrait of some unbelievable portions of her life and relationships. I recommend this book for adults only. Alcohol, drugs, sexual activity, and shoplifting are some of what you will find within her adventures. (I received this book in a goodreads giveaway.)

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