November 16th, 2016
The Short Take:
A wandering tale of a ruined professional woman and her two children as they range across Alaska in a decrepit RV. At turns funny and heart-breaking, this novel is not about the plot so much as it is about the heroine’s hopes, fears, shortcomings, and strengths.
There are several reasons to love this book:
Eggers observations on America (as voiced by Josie, the central character) are excellent and thought provoking — people’s constant disappointment, the rise of selfishness, even fancy groceries get their share of critique.
There’s also the artfully nuanced portrayal of Josie — one of the most thorough and honest representations I’ve encountered. Much of the book takes place in her head, and her reflections and concerns consistently have the stamp of reality, even when they seem a touch crazed.
It’s particularly interesting to have her thoughtful son and rambunctious daughter presented solely through her eyes; and see how her perceptions change as their journey progresses.
However, the reader can be forgiven for wondering, “Where is this going?” In this book, as in Josie’s life, it’s not the destination, its the journey that matters.
A Little Plot:
Josie’s absent and unsupportive ex is getting married and wants their two kids to meet his fiancé. Instead she spirits them away to Alaska, where they rent an RV and strike out, despite fires raging in the area. She intends to visit a childhood friend but has no other real plans. Random encounters ensue, while Josie wonders if she is doing the right thing — now or ever.