In the depression of the 1930's, a tempestuous young man from Paterson, New Jersey, who has been both a hobo and a carnival roustabout, finds himself lsot one night besdie a single-track railroad in the Adirondack Mountains. A private train goes by, ablaze with lights. He follows it as if it were a vision--and so comes to Loon Lake, the hidden wilderness estate of one of the country's richest men. Here he encounters a great-hearted poet-drunkard, a willful, beautiful young girl, a gangster, a world-famous aviatrix, and the ineffable master of Loon Lake himself. Quite a masterpiece at holding ones interest glued to the pages, E. L. Doctorow presents a magical view of American life and passions.
This was a somewhat challenging book to read. Doctorow used various writing styles throughout the book going from 1st person to 3rd person narration, then including a stream of consciousness style (similar to Faulkner) where the narration goes on for several pages without punctuation or clear sentences, he then also includes some passages in poetry. But if you can get through all that, the story is quite interesting about a young man (Joe) during the depression of the 1930s who works as a carnival roustabout (some scenes here are quite harrowing) and then finds his way to Loon Lake which is owned by a rich eccentric who entertains the rich and famous there (similar to Hearst castle). Joe meets a failed poet at the lake who encourages him along the way, he falls in love, and then moves on to a town in Indiana where he gets involved in union intrigue at an auto plant owned by the rich eccentric of Loon Lake. I have read other Doctorow novels that I really enjoyed but in this one, I think he was trying too hard to use too many different literary techniques which I felt distracted from the story. In some places these techniques made me feel like I had lost my way in the story. Overall, a mild recommendation.
Read this book as a teen and loved it. Still love it today!