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Highway by Donald O'Donovan
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Highway (edition 2011)

by Donald O'Donovan

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2115495,208 (2.5)None
paulco's review
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I did find this book a little disjointed and a bit much to wade through at first, but about halfway it got rolling and I finished it quickly. Follow Mulvaney as he long-haul trucks around North America, and the characters he meets. What I found interesting, and maybe a little disconcerting, was that the author had driven big rigs for a living, and many of the people people he wrote about were probably based on actual individuals he'd met. Shades of "On the Road" with Charles Kuralt with a darker side to it. Overall I liked the book and would read more of this author. ( )
  paulco | Feb 2, 2012 |
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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had a hard time getting through this offering by O'Donovan. Not much of a plot, reads more like a travel log. That said, if I were a male, and/or an over the road trucker I may have found it more interesting. ( )
  BackyardHorse | Mar 6, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had to force myself to read it. The descriptions of travels doing the job of trucking became tedious; as though someone had just cut and pasted the route driven. I kept looking for a reason why the writer wrote this book, and some kind of thread to tie it together, and I couldn't find one. The people may have been real people, but most of them were tragic or boring. When the drivers overspent their money, what happened didn't make sense. They got away with it. I didn't understand the trek into the jungle, and the point of the tragedy there. The protagonist survived everything, but I'm left as a reader with disappointment in everything. ( )
  jaelquinn | Feb 6, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found that this book veered around a little bit too much to really keep my attention. While the epistolary novel has always been a great draw to me, I think that there does need to be a bit more of an overt plot to keep it tied together. A series of vignettes about what is happening to someone doesn't feel like the best way to capture the reader. While the writing style suited me - nothing very jarring, and it flowed relatively smoothly, with some good word choices - nothing really swept me away.
  foldedleaves | Feb 3, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I did find this book a little disjointed and a bit much to wade through at first, but about halfway it got rolling and I finished it quickly. Follow Mulvaney as he long-haul trucks around North America, and the characters he meets. What I found interesting, and maybe a little disconcerting, was that the author had driven big rigs for a living, and many of the people people he wrote about were probably based on actual individuals he'd met. Shades of "On the Road" with Charles Kuralt with a darker side to it. Overall I liked the book and would read more of this author. ( )
  paulco | Feb 2, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jump into the cab with Jerzy Mulvaney and roll along the interstates, across America and into Mexico, and even Central America for the ride of your life. I learned much about the modern trucker’s life on the road, how they are jerked around from city to city, and still manage to find a restaurant section Reserved for Professional Drivers, a good lay now and then and friends and adventure in every stop. Of course the Writer on the Road is on an episodic journey. Characters fade in and out, and the energy is in the here and now. The hero even looks for buried treasure South of the Border (nope, doesn’t find it). Yet the most beautiful and moving passages are those about Coopertown, a small village in Upstate New York, that feels more real than anywhere else he foes. The childhood memories of smalltown America are worth the whole ride. The text rambles and takes its sweet time, but you’ll enjoy the ride. ( )
  fredvandoren | Jan 22, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
New American Novel? Not kidding when I say this might be a new favourite book for me. A story of true spirit, characters in this novel are falliable and human; yet lead pretty amazing lives. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is thrilled of tales of Hemmingway, of whom the main character, Jerzy Mulvaney, is emulating. The stories of hometowns, and the complex nature of leaving and coming back to this childhood place, family dynamics, all play a strong role in Mulvaney's life. I seriously love the book, and think it's an excellent tale of travel, growing up, and coming to grips with the changing world around oneself. ( )
  kristincedar | Jan 17, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. The plot was, at least most of the time, nonexistent, the main character's adventures seemed just like a series of unconnected and aimless events. However, the book is well written, without typos and absurd, artificial dialogues, and the characters were... human. I could even say that Jerzy was almost likeable. However, that's not enough for a book to be good, and this one was just plain average. ( )
  Kaczencja | Jan 15, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A long time ago, a friend shared with me his "25% rule": after reading 25% of a book, if it is not amouting to anything worth reading, sit it aside and move on to something else. I adopted that rule for myself many years ago, and I have only needed to implement it a few times. I have read plenty mediocre books, but it's not that often that I have decided to sit a book down, never to return to it again.

I must apply that rule to this book. I am a quarter of the way through Highway, and I have decided that the remainder is not worth reading. The story is going nowhere; in fact, there is hardly a story at all. Characters come and go, and there is absolutely no development of them. They are all hollow shells like stock characters out of a bad movie.

The first chapter, in which the narrator tells of his travelings around the country as a trucker, is about as interesting as reading the shipping logs themselves. If the writer were to add, "And it came to pass" before every paragraph, I'd think I was reading the Book of Mormon or some of the dryer portions of the Old Testament.

In the next chapter, the reader is given a who's who list of people from the narrators childhood, and burdens us with an excessive amount of details that it would be impossible for all of them to be relevant. It reminds me of some drivel I wrote in highschool and eventually trashed when I realized that no one who appreciated good literature would ever want to read it.

After that, we get back to going nowhere. At that point, I decided where that book will go. ( )
  Texsain | Jan 7, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I think the book is interesting, easy to read, and in some parts enjoyable. However, I found it a little disconnected. The main character of the book finds himself in a lot of events and situations, in different places across the US and sometimes even in foreign countries, but some of these episodes seemed to me quite surreal, almost forced into the narrative. At times, I felt like the story was going nowhere. Overall, I didn’t dislike the book, but I wasn’t really taken by it. ( )
  laFrapp | Jan 7, 2012 |
THE HIGHWAY by Donald O’Donovan

Living in a dying town with few restaurants, we frequent an establishment which originated some 30 years back, propelled by an Amish-inspired bill of fare and once the haunt of the after-church crowd such as the well-dressed elderly and the tackily-garbed over-populated tribes of rural families. Then the truck-stop just across the road from this dining “palace” closed about six years ago now, and the checkered nature of the ever-loyal fundamentalists who exercised their narrow-minded control over the allowance of smoking (no lighting up until after 4 o’clock ) tentatively and awkwardly nearly blended with the disgruntled transplanted trucker crowd is an absolute hoot. For convenience’s sake, we pass the non-nicotine crowd as if we are porters shuffling down a narrow aisled netherworld to join the wicked smoking crowd.

We over-hear tales reminiscent of those of Donald O’Donovan in his novel, “Highway” -- nearly thrice per week. However, narrator O’Donovan speaks of “toothpicks dancing in mouths” and authoritatively of dysfunctional families (“foolish, funny in head, not right”) and lost opportunities and the seedier side of the vagabond’s life and references Dostoevsky, James Joyce, and Thomas Hardy while transporting us about the country. We have actually listened to one of his “fictional” phrases repetitively: “I’m a goddamn truck driver -- I’ve been to every town in the U.S. ” several times a table or two away from ourselves – simultaneously whining and swaggering in tone.

However, “schmeckle” and “propounded” and “lascivious billboards” or a “shimmering mirage of Dairy Queens and dissolving mountain peaks” would shock us to hear. We must read novels composed in a fictional style by those who have lived and endured such experiences and adventures and boredom on the road while navigating innumerable ribbons of highways and from the astute minds of those who possess observational skills coupled with the sheer genius to transport us beside themselves in the truck’s cab.

Nestled near a tiny “downtown” south of our HIGHWAY 30 which slices through the northern tip of our community and runs right past the WAL-MART which massacred all local business, we realize somebody HAS to deliver pianos, livestock, retail goods, but not until lately have we dined with such souls. Thus, rather well-armed to comprehend where this script-writing, womanizing, philosophizing dreamer may be chauffeuring us toward, the E-book seemed like a busman’s holiday to this reader.

About Tuesday, I shall return to the red-neck-tinged wannabe - “ Deerhunter ” (s)’ Algonquin Club knowing more about these fellows than even they themselves might . For example, tidbits stuck with me, such as: “99% turnover in the trucking industry” and “It’s no picnic out there—it’s a hard life” and that lawns CAN be visualized by guys , behind the steering wheels of rigs , as “absinthe-green”!

O’Donovan’s discussion of a Singer Sewing Machine controversy -- deeply imbedded within familial consciousness -- causing the droning humming of one tune only , “What might have been …”, seemed perfectly positioned near the story’s conclusion and explains the narrator’s perpetual youthful yet prescient quest to ride relentlessly on the back of his childhood friend, a treasured , wooden, red-wheeled toy named “Butchie Bear”! Shades of that fabulous classic “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence! No fooling!

Susie Sexton (www.susieduncansexton.com) ( )
  SusieSexton | Jan 4, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The blurb for this book promised "Highway is the road trip you always imagined but never took; mile after mile is marked with candid observations, outlandish circumstances and insights that define the American experience." Unfortunately, the book didn't really live up to this promise.

The writing wasn't bad: everything was well described, only occasionally veering into cliché. The main issue for me was that all of the characters encountered by the protagonist on his road trips felt like exactly that: characters. I never got a sense that any of them were real people. Even the protagonist himself was so thinly drawn that despite the whole thing being narrated from his point of view, I never really felt I got to know him. There also isn't really much of a plot, although I suppose that is typical of the "road novel" genre - I think it's meant to be a series of vignettes rather than one overarching story.

Another thing that bugged me was that there was no sense of when this book was supposed to be set. I had assumed from the cultural references, attitudes of the characters, language used and places described that the book was supposed to be set in the 1970s. It wasn't until a third of the way through the book, where a character's boyfriend is described as a "computer programmer who emailed her spicy photos from Internet porn sites", that I realised it was supposed to be set in the present day. I actually found that really jarring: it moved the book from being a semi-decent period piece to a fairly hackneyed, decades-old view of "the American experience". Little things started to niggle at me after that point: why was the main character, a writer, talking about using a typewriter? And why is such a big deal made over the truck stop diners having telephones at the tables - wouldn't they have mobile phones?

I could have got past that, but the nail in the coffin when it came to this book was the attitudes to women displayed throughout. I found it quite unpleasant to read in places. Apart from the main character's aunt, mother and sister, who are family members and therefore desexualised, the only female characters in this book are exclusively discussed in terms of their shaggability. When I thought the book was set in the 1970s, and thus reflecting 1970s attitudes, that was almost excusable - but really, a modern-day novel in which the only female characters are there to be shagged and discarded? There were some real cringeworthy moments too, such as when the main character ventures into South America and finds an American who has set up a brothel in the middle of the forest. The brothel owner reads to me like a sad old man, a Hugh-Hefner type figure living out his adolescent fantasy by paying young women to dress up as cheerleaders, keep house for him and be available for him to shag. However, he is simply idolised by the protagonist and others around him. He is described by another character thus: "[he] treats his Indians well. He is kind but stern, like a good father. They look up to him as their leader, almost as a god... his privileges among them include the jus primus noctis".

Yeah, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Nice mixture of racism, sexism and all-round ick-factor there. Honestly, if the rest of this book had been a masterpiece, that passage alone would have earned it a low rating from me. As it is, I'm giving it 1/5, for the fairly decent descriptive writing. I doubt I'll read anything else by this author. ( )
  WoodsieGirl | Dec 30, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Interesting road novel based I assume on the author's life experiences. Overall an enjoyable read but there was an episodic "feel" to the novel , with the hero Jerzy Mulvaney ,jumping between the USA,Mexico and Brazil with flashbacks to his upbringing in Cooperstown ,New York with its statue of Fenimore Cooper . The author knows his trucks and his routes while creating in his hero a budding writer with pretensions of intellectual snobbery. There was too much ground covered in the novel which might lessen its appeal to readers but I stayed with it and found the outcome of reading same rewarding. ( )
  tbrennan1 | Dec 19, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Overall, I found this book really interesting and enjoyed it quite a bit. The book describes what it is like to be a truck driver. This is not a life that I could ever have myself, but I really enjoyed reading about life on the road, written by someone with first hand experience of what it is like. ( )
  aeisen | Dec 19, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Well, I’ve finally received a book from early reviewers from which I got nothing, no message, no moral, no insight. On the plus side, it helped keep me awake on a return flight from Europe, but unlike the book I will not go into the mind numbing detail of the flight. The story line recounts what happened while the main character, a wana-be writer, waiting for inspiration and his book to develop. The author seems, at points, to have been trying for a “Travels with Charlie” Steinbeck sequel; or possibly he believes that the minutia of his life is that important. Again, on the plus side, congratulate the author, he sold his book to a publisher, certainly more than I’ve ever done, but we who consume should be aware that not everything published is worth a price, sleep would have been a preferable alternative to reading this on the plane.
  dmclane | Dec 14, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is quite possibly the worst book I have read in the last 10 years. This book goes nowhere. the characters are not interesting nor is the story, what little there is of it. the first chapter is about being a truck driver with Armando an illegal who speaks no English. The second chapter is where he grew up, equallly boring, the 3rd chapter really had no theme, after that I lost any hope of caring about anything in this book. ( )
  zmagic69 | Dec 11, 2011 |
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