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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Oh, this is a trip !

And it struck a chord with me. Of course, I am prejudiced here, since I am also (or was briefly, at least) a part of the same rootless, wandering generation of hitchhikers that the author is so familiar with. What is lacking in literary sophistication is made up for by the purity and directness of the voice. It has the ring of truth. And it certainly keeps moving.

And ... well, I can't help thinking, this is, in so many ways, ME when I was young. Yes, like Levi, I was an admirer of Kerouac, and set out on the road, equipped with backpack and riding my thumb. The road trip, here, starts in 1980. My own was ten years earlier, but the are so many echoes. The desire not to just be stuck in the rut of the day-to-day, the nine-to-five routine. On the other hand, there was that shot at escaping. Disappointing the parents, yes, but making your way to somewhere and something else, a different life. To have something larger, wider, to take that one chance you have and run with it.

I was inspired by the so-called summer of love, and all of that, and dreamed of finding me some of those free and compliant hippie girls in California. By the time I got to Haight-Asbury in 1970 (oh, so long ago !), it was all over, as if it had never happened.

I didn't have the experience of Vietnam to struggle through; being Canadian, you managed to avoid that, pretty well. But for kids I met on the road, tripping through the US in that summer of 1970, it was all too real and painful. There are lots of drug and bar fights and drug culture here; that's something I happily missed out on. I was too good a kid, also, to suffer from that streak of self-destructiveness that is so strong in Levi. But I can related to so much of this: the pickup truck rides through the deep south, where you found yourself riding alongside a character whose speech you could barely make out, so thick was his accent. Getting come on to by gays, pulled over by state troopers, all of that. Not so much fun at the time.

The author had me from "Travels With Charley", Steinbeck's road memoir, which is what young Levi packs as reading material on his first trip, and pulls out to peruse in the back seat as the married couple who picked him up argue about Reagan vs Carter. I still have my copy of that book, a paperback I picked up while travelling, at a used bookstore in LA.

By 1980, when this kid sets out, with the shadow of Reagan on the horizon, things were beginning to get much darker. Yes, that was the time all the ex-campus radicals went back to school to get their MBAs and become entrepreneurs. Not something I ever could go so far as to buy into, but, like the hero of this one, in the end I settled down, had kids and took computer courses; that was what people did if you wanted to pay the bills.

I really wanted this book not to end. Loved it. You end up pulling for Levi all the way through, even though the ending is inevitable.

cns1000 | Oct 21, 2022 |