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The Ride of Our Lives by Mike Leonard

The Ride of Our Lives

by Mike Leonard

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a boring trip but an interesting family story. ( )
  mahallett | Jul 25, 2014 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this. Mike Leonard, bravely, takes his 80ish parents and 3 of his adult children, across the country in two RVs. The parents are the stars of the journey, members of the greatest generation and real characters. His mother drinks, swears and laughs and his father is real story teller and they enjoy each other. The story of Mike's childhood harks back to the days when kids weren't managed and groomed, which I found very refreshing. The journey focuses on their lives and relationships more than the scenery and is laugh-out-loud funny. ( )
  ccayne | Mar 28, 2012 |
Packing his family into two RVs, Mike Leonard, a feature reporter for NBC’s Today Show, went on a cross-country road trip. The trip resulted in a four-part series on the Today Show, this book, and a family reconnecting with its past and with future generations. Starting from Scottsdale, the home of Mike’s retired parents, it ended two weeks later in Chicago. In Chicago Marge and Jack Leonard, Mike’s parents, became great-grandparents.

The book is a combination of nostalgia, oral history, family history, national history, and pop culture history. The combinations and conflicts between the various histories make the book a fascinating artifact. Jack and Marge represent two opposite personalities, Marge’s pessimism and Jack’s optimism. Jack sometimes threatened to derail the entire trip by talking people’s ears off. Mike characterizes the long monologues in defense of the ordinary man “The Bleeding Heart Express.”

Jack’s propensity to leaven the mood with obscure songs interests his grandson, who tells them about Puff Daddy. As is typical when multiple generations clash over their musical tastes, hilarity ensues. Throughout the book, Mike combines the present-day experiences of the road trip with stories of his mother and father.

One of the more intriguing episodes occurred when the family visited the Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in the United States. Jack’s mother, Annie, had emigrated from Ireland and worked as a domestic for a wealthy New Jersey family. When asked about the Depression and the rash of suicides associated with the period, Jack says, “For them [the rich] it was more about losing face than losing money. … There should be no shame in going broke. The dishonor comes from getting rich … if you do it the wrong way, if you take advantage of other people.” They are words of wisdom from a man who endured more than his fair share of ups and downs.

The greatest irony is that Mike Leonard comes across as the least likable character of the bunch. The fault does not originate in the content so much as the delivery. Leonard excels at capturing the little moments of humor and pathos during the journey. He characterizes himself with a brand of self-deprecatory humor that leavens a book otherwise destined for wooden self-seriousness. The humor lightens the mood, since the literature about the Greatest Generation and the Boomer Generation sometimes devolves into hagiography and misplaced reverence. This reviewer contends that he overdid the self-depreciation shtick. Every so often, a humorous remark aimed at his personal failings would have vastly improved the book, but he laid it on thick. Instead, it came across as a warped vanity.

All in all, The Ride of Our Lives offered a quick look into the interactions of multiple generations. The personal stories fed into the grander narrative of American history. ( )
  kswolff | Jun 8, 2010 |
Parts of this autobiography/memoir are hilarious. Mike Leonard's parents are polar opposites who raised a loving and funny family. Leonard's gift is in finding the lesson and/or symbolism in small, seemingly insignificant events. But even a gift can be overused to the point of being tiresome. The Today Show snippets of this "journey" were much more entertaining than the book. Still, I'm glad I got to know Jack and Marge even if Leonard's writing style is a bit repetitive. ( )
  bookappeal | Nov 1, 2009 |
This was done much better in Little Miss Sunshine. Got tired of being told how funny everything was. ( )
  KPW | Aug 14, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345481496, Paperback)

The Ride of Our Lives is the humorous yet deeply moving account of NBC journalist Mike Leonard’s cross-country odyssey with his eccentric parents, three grown children, and a daughter-in-law. Full of ups and downs, laughs and tears, the month-long journey becomes a much larger tale of hope, persistence, and valuable lessons learned along the way. A celebration of the ties between parents and children, as well as the unforgettable community of people one can meet across America, The Ride of Our Lives is an inspiring narrative of self-discovery and self-fulfillment–and how one unique family found blessings and simple pleasures on the road called life.

“Touching, hilarious . . . should be required reading in every family.”
–Tom Brokaw

“Poignant moments of questions and discovery, of truth-telling and memories.”
–The Charlotte Observer

“Often laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes heartbreakingly sad.”
–St. Louis Post-Dispatch

–Chicago Tribune

“Heartfelt and whimsical . . . a cross-country trek through life’s lessons . . . Mike Leonard is a storyteller at heart, and each anecdote . . . punctuates the family’s love, struggles, and triumphs. In short, this is one ride worth taking.”
Rocky Mountain News

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Mike Leonard wanted to give his parents the ultimate family reunion. And so, one February morning, three generations of Leonards set out on their journey under the dazzling Arizona sky. In the course of their humorous, often poignant cross-country tour, from the desert Southwest to the New England coastline, the Leonards reminisce about their loves, their losses, and their rich and heartwarming (and sometimes heartbreaking) lives, while encountering a veritable Greek chorus of roadside characters along the way.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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