Rail and Tie

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Julie Hensley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

Young Smith

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Nancy Jensen

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


Rail and Tie is a novel featuring five protagonists, all survivors of the same train derailment and crash, and each of the main characters walks away from that trauma suffering from their own version of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. An older couple, Marvin and Ruby, are forced to retire and must get to know each other all over again, though PTSD casts a long shadow over their golden years. Chip, a young man, was waiting tables on the train, saving money to take a trip and meet his birth mother. The crash not only leaves scars on his back but a dark presence that he can’t seem to shake. Cameron loses his girlfriend, his unborn daughter, and his legs in the accident and tries to quell the pain of their absence with drugs. Finally, Jessica, just out of high school, loses her parents in the crash and must move in with her brother. Cameron proves an effective distraction from her own pain. PTSD colors all of the protagonists’ perceptions of the world around them, particularly regarding their interpersonal relationships, and it is their interactions with each other that drive the novel forward, prompting the reader to possibly reexamine their own ideas of what this particular mental illness looks like.

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