Thursday, October 23, 2014

Whatcha Readin? Week 43

Last  week's book was Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I was able to borrow this book from the Amazon Kindle lending library. Several of the books I've read this year have come to me that way, but this one was far and away the best of that group.

The short review: I devoured this one. It was an easy read, but not in a Bridget Jones kind of way. Hyde's writing is straightforward, even when the subject matter is complex. It came across as confidence, actually, that the characters' feelings and backstories could stand on their own, without lyrical prose to describe the "sharp edges of their exquisite pain" or similar Oprah Book Club-esque phrases.

This book had a lot going on.  The primary plotline was about August, a science teacher grieving the death of his son. August is an alcoholic in recovery. He uses his summers off to travel in his RV. This particular summer's journey is especially important, because he is taking his son's ashes to Yellowstone National Park.  As a teacher, August budgets all year to have gas money for his summer travels. When the RV breaks down, the cost of repairs throws his ability to get to Yellowstone into question.

While he waits at the garage, August meets Seth and Henry, the two young sons of the mechanic. He is shocked when the mechanic asks him to take the two boys on his summer trip while he serves a 90-day jail sentence. August plans to say no, then Wes sweetens the deal by saying that the repairs to the RV will be free, whether he takes the boys or not. (No pressure--right??)

Seth is a 12-year-old chatterbox with the cares of the world on his shoulders. Nine-year-old Henry speaks only to Seth, and even him, only rarely.  I don't know which boy broke my heart more: Seth, so eager to see the world but so afraid to ask for what he wants, or Henry, so used to being let down that he has no expectations at all.  August is a decent guy, so of course he gets attached to Seth and Henry, even as he constantly tells himself not to.

They're not far into the trip when they learn that Wes's 90-day sentence for check-kiting is actually a 180-day sentence for his fourth DUI. August struggles to decide what to do about this latest development, while the boys each handle it in their own ways. Meanwhile, August attends AA meetings along their route and calls his sponsor regularly. Seth becomes interested in the program and how it might help his dad.

I don't want to unpack the entire plot here, because the real beauty of this book is the characters. Each one is damaged and hurting, and Hyde writes them with perfect consistency. I cannot recall one false note in any character. And yet, they weren't flat or predictable. (oooh, I so want to tell about two scenes in particular that would illustrate my point, but it would be unkind to spoil that part. I hope you appreciate my restraint!)

I'm headed to the library this afternoon, and if I find another book by Catherine Ryan Hyde, you can bet I'll be checking it out.

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