Priest, physicist publishes new book
By Robert Cloud
“The Mountain Goat” is a road trip story, a guide to scenic vistas in the American West, a romance, a suspense thriller and a spiritual journey.
Ryan Browning and Amanda Seward take a 2,000-mile journey in an old camper van from Manhattan Beach, California, to Glacier National Park, Montanna.
Along the way, they visit the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Grand Teton National Park.
Browning, who has just been fired from his job as a researcher for a corporation, meets Seward for the first time when he closes his bank account. He spontaneously asks if she would like to go on a road trip with him.
To his surprise, she says yes.
Before long, they realize they are being followed and Browning suspects his former employers are searching for him.
Among the novel’s highlights are insightful, heartfelt discussions of how art, science, faith and love are interrelated.
“The Mountain Goat” also expresses a common theme in Trainor’s work that people are less interested in scientific proofs for the existence of God than they are in experiencing God in their lives. One way to have that experience is through personal relationships.
“I believe faith often begins with experience, as opposed to a rational analysis – even speaking as a scientist – as happens with the rational character Ryan in ‘The Mountain Goat,’” Trainor told the Waupaca County Post. “Faith will seek understanding, as St. Anselm once said. We see that begin to happen in Ryan’s discussions with his uncle Wil.”
Both Browning and Seward have experienced personal struggles, disappointing relationships and a near hopeless sense of the future.
These personal struggles lead Browning to ask Seward to accompany him on his road trip and Seward to accept.
“The character of Amanda has had a hard go of it over the past few years,” Trainor said. “At the beginning of the story, we find her in this pathetic situation, and that leads to her readily accepting Ryan’s surprising invitation. As she puts some distance between her and her troubled past, we see the real Amanda – that strong girl from Wausau, Wisconsin – begin to emerge: thinking of others, acting more independent, and even considering reconnection with a long lost faith.”
One of the first experiences that connect the couple with each other and with other people occurs outside a Walmart restroom in Kingman, Arizona, where Seward encounters an employee whose husband is in the hospital in Flagstaff, more than 200 miles away. The woman has no car and Seward offers her a ride.
“When we encounter God, one of the things that happens, I believe, is that we begin to become our true selves, the person we were meant to be, the person we always were at the deepest levels,” Trainor said.
As part of its focus on personal experience, “The Mountain Goat” presents the story in the third-person subjective, with alternating chapters presenting the thoughts and feelings of Seward and Browning.
Readers see the natural wonders that Browning and Seward visit on their journey through the characters’ eyes.
“There’s a line from The Psalms that says, ‘Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,’” Trainor said. “The places my characters visit are all places I have visited many times and have been deeply affected by, and I believe these are the kinds of beautiful – yes, even holy, perhaps – places the psalmist may have had in mind.”
“At one point in the book, there is the mention of ‘thin places,’ places where the separation between heaven and earth seems small. I wanted the reader to experience these places with Ryan and Amanda and experience how they grew as a result,” he added.
Trainor is a Wisconsin outdoorsman with a doctorate in physics from the University of California. He was a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and wrote more than 60 technical articles.
He has also served as pastor to churches in New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin. Trainor lives in Waupaca with his wife Mary.
Copies of “The Mountain Goat” are available at The Bookcellar in downtown Waupaca.