All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Where The Road Leads Us by Robin Reul

on September 22, 2021

Where The Road Leads Us
Robin Ruel
Sourcebooks Fire
2021, 253p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Jack is on the verge for leaving for college, but before he does, he wants to track down his estranged brother, Alex and find some closure in the wake of their father’s death. Meanwhile, Hallie has just found out some upsetting news about a friend in Oregon, and she has a small window to go see him before it’s too late.

Jack and Hallie are practically strangers. They shared a class together years ago and haven’t seen each other since, though they have more in common than they’d ever imagine. And when fate puts them into the same rideshare to the bus terminal, it kicks off an unconventional and hilarious adventure that may lead them to their own true selves…and maybe to each other.

I love a good road trip book and this caught my eye because I quite liked the cover. It wasn’t exactly as I expected but it ended up being a quick and easy read that passed the time.

Jack is graduating from high school and it’s also his 18th birthday but he wakes alone, his family fractured and elsewhere. Then his girlfriend breaks up with him, stating that it’s better to have a clean break now than fall prey to the statistics of long distance relationships. It gets to be too much for Jack and all of a sudden the thoughts are crowding his brain about whether or not the future mapped out for him (paid summer internship in New York followed by enrolment at Columbia University) is really what he wants. He decides to track down his brother Alex, whom he hasn’t seen in years and see if he can at least try and repair something there, before leaving California.

Hallie and Jack had a creative writing class a few years ago before Hallie left school due to illness. Due to some circumstances, they end up at the bus station together and then on a wild ride to track down Jack’s brother in San Francisco after Hallie’s attempts to get to Oregon to visit a person she connected with online, someone who understood what she’d been going through because they were too, fell through in the saddest of ways. They spend only about 24 hours together but it’s a powerful time, both of them sharing things with each other and building something. But Hallie is reluctant to exchange contact details – she has some problems that she needs to get through first and she’s a “if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen” type of person. She’s willing to leave it up to fate if they cross paths again.

I originally thought this might be a road trip book where they went to Oregon to see Hallie’s friend. But instead they end up travelling from LA to San Francisco with a ride share driver and it’s a fun adventure with their car getting stolen, some dog napping, an attempt at stopping a wedding and Jack trying to find the brother he hasn’t seen or spoken to in years. The last time he saw Alex, he was in a very bad way and Jack’s family has kind of disintegrated since then. Jack is really struggling – his mother is off on a book tour, as she’s a successful self-help author, missing not only his high school graduation but also his birthday. His father died relatively recently and that is definitely something that Jack has not dealt with and he’s still obviously experiencing a lot of grief. He’s confused about his future and just who it’s really for – is he doing it because it’s what people want or expect of him? What about what he wants? And then there’s Alex and discovering that his parents have known where Alex is, despite what they told him.

There’s a lot of quite heavy stuff in here and it’s sort of balanced out by fun things that happen when they’re driving but this book is definitely tackling quite a lot of serious topics: cancer, death of a family member, drug addiction, parental distance and almost abandonment, death of a friend, mortality, end of a relationship, it’s pretty much all here. It isn’t a long book but there certainly is a lot of story in it.

The narrative switches between Jack and Hallie, giving you insight into their background and how they’re arrived at the places they are today as well as exploring the present and their impromptu road trip together. I enjoyed their interactions and how the fact that they didn’t really know each other that well (but obviously remembered sharing a class together) allowed them to be free with each other, to tell each other things without embarrassment or reluctance, I guess. Jack is supposed to be going to Columbia after the summer and doing the internship in New York before that so for the most part, they do think that they’re unlikely to see each other again after this although they arrange to meet again in six months time at a specific place the went to, just to see if it’s meant to be, which was an idea I really liked.

For the most part, I enjoyed this even if I did feel at times that the narrative felt a little crowded, which for me meant that a lot of things were not really explored in a way that felt adequate. Even Jack’s conversation with his mother toward the end of the book felt like it left a lot to be desired and I understand that this is not the sort of book that is going to have a nice neat ending but there still felt like so much was unsaid and ignored. Like Jack’s mother’s actions in leaving him alone at that time in his life, her opinions on what he wanted for his future. I also didn’t love the way the interaction with Alex went, although maybe it felt realistic of someone who had been removed from a family – still it felt like Alex was kind of bottling out on something.

This was a quick read and even though it was heavy, it still felt easy to sink into. The humour in it wasn’t particularly my sort of humour but it did help the overall feel of the book to lift the mood at times and prevent the reader from getting too weighed down by a lot of the topics.

I only read this yesterday but already I’m struggling to really remember how I felt about things that happened. Perhaps it just inundated me with so many things that I couldn’t really connect to them because there were so many. I enjoyed it as a read but I don’t feel it’s a book that will stick with me.

6/10

Book #154 of 2021


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