A young motherless girl becomes friends with a teacher/writer who weaves the story of their friendship into her novel. A moving book about promises and the nature of stories.
On a train trip with her grandmother, young Banafsheh meets a woman who reminds her of her dead mother. The woman is a teacher and a writer, and she promises she will call Banafsheh and come and tell her stories. Later, the teacher weaves the encounter into a story that she tells to the children in her classroom. The children are entranced by the story and imagine how it will turn out. Surely, they say, the teacher will call the little girl.
But the teacher never calls, though Banafsheh waits faithfully by the phone and refuses even to go out to play. Meanwhile, the teacher is disconcerted by her class’s reaction, and she agonizes over how to end her story. As a writer, she feels that the story is more important than anything else, and that the ending must be exciting and eventful, no matter what. Perhaps Banafsheh will even have to become ill and die?
In the end, the teacher does visit Banafsheh, but finds that it is too little too late. Banafsheh is very angry with the teacher, and hurt. Finally, the teacher makes the biggest sacrifice she knows — her manuscript — in order to save the friendship.
This is a thought-provoking and emotionally powerful novel that raises intriguing and child-friendly questions about how real life and stories are interwoven, who owns stories, and whether they can ever truly disappear.
Ahmad Akbarpour is a novelist, short-story writer and author of children’s books. He has won the Iranian National Book Award and was selected for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) honor list in 2006. He is the author of the picture book Good Night, Commander, illustrated by Morteza Zahedi. He lives in Shiraz, Iran.
That Night's Train is a satisfying story that weaves together fiction and reality in a unique way. - Tara Stieglitz, CM
Reading and writing both become their own characters in Akbarpour's sly prose, as he blends and blurs what might be real-life characters with their unreliable narrators to create quite the literary adventure. - Smithsonian
... perfect... a story from life experiences. - Lisa Wright, Library Media Connection
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