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A “road trip” novel worth reading.
Like any classic road trip, this is a voyage of discovery, but one that follows a different route than normally taken in this genre. It’s not about a white youth heading west, which has been the classic narrative in most American road trip stories since Jack Kerouac – hell, since Frederick Jackson Turner.
Instead, it’s a road trip story for a modern, urban, American reality: a black youth heading East (the youth happens to be named East; the hero as the homonym). East heading east, fleeing from the past instead of journeying into the future, disappearing into the hinterland instead of arriving wide-eyed and innocent at the Pacific coast. Encountering personal limitation and responsibilities instead of liberation and possibilities.
Some critics have compared East with Holden Caulfield, narrator of The Catcher in the Rye. Others with Raskalnikov in Crime and Punishment. Perhaps a better comparison would be to Huckleberry Finn. (East’s uncle, by the way, is named Fin. This cannot be by accident. Beverly's symbolism is very purposeful, if not always subtle). In many ways this novel is a photo negative of that original American road story, with East = Huck (and Michael Wilson + Walter + Perry = Jim?).
But I kept referring back to “Easy Rider”, the cult-classic Peter Fonda/Dennis Hopper film. (East's nickname is Easy....) Here we have the same aimless meandering toward the same inevitable conclusion. The same admonitions: “America is burning” says the final image in the movie. “America is strung out”, says the book. Everybody is addicted to something: heroin, money, guns, paintball, donuts.
In both the movie and the novel, we are left with a future that looks very bleak, a future that seems stacked against us. Stacked against a black youth from the inner city, to be sure. But maybe stacked against us all. Can our GPS calculate an escape from mortality?
A very worthwhile novel with a good story and a serious purpose. A novel as metaphor for the State of the Nation. You ain't in the conversation if you haven't read it. Narration competent but not memorable.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
I didn't know what to expect but I loved this book. Deep and exciting story. Awesome use of words and imagery. The audible performance really pulled me in. I was sad when it ended but totally satisfied.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Great journey, not what I expected story-wise but gripping all the way through. Highly recommended. Easy to relate to characters and provoked much thought and made me experience a vast array of emotions.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Great story, well plotted, beautifully written with economy & insight. Also terrific narrator. Compelling stuff.