Monday, November 14, 2022

Book Review: The Book of Maps

Happy Monday! Did you spend your entire weekend decorating your house for Christmas like I did?? Not going to lie, I am really excited about the holidays this year and maybe its because I like 75% done shopping so I'll be able to do all of the fun things and not panic shop that last week or because I'm decorating early, but either way, I'm excited.  

The Book of Maps - Ernest Thompson

In the summer of 2002, Brendan Tibbet, a filmmaker whose luck has run low, takes his ten-year-old son Brenlyn on a raucous road trip across America. Following a 1930s travel guide Brendan purchased at a yard sale, the two-week trek from LA to New Hampshire covers 16 states, hitting the iconic stops along the way, Yosemite, the Great Salt Lake, Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, replete with wild exploits both hilarious and perilous, but it’s the interior journey that is enlightening, deeply poignant and life-changing.

Brendan assures the boy that each state will be an adventure, and on the second day proves it, seeing the kid washed away in fast-moving rapids, then foolishly putting them both in danger by refusing to back down to the massive black bear invading their campsite. That’s Brendan, impetuous and foolhardy, inciting trouble wherever he goes, a man with demons and bubbling angst. But neither of those missteps, or the many and scarier ones to follow, can begin to compare to the threatening storm cloud hanging over the expedition: the father’s struggle to find the perfect, worst time to reveal to his son the news that will break his heart and affect everything to follow.

Ernest Thompson’s debut novel is a skillful, magical piece of 20th-century fin de si├Ęcle writing depicting a United States that, even in the aftermath of 9-11, seems almost innocent contrasted to the horrors and divisions, racism and rage challenging us now. The Book of Maps, with its powerful father-son relationship and one man’s relentless albeit unintentional quest to evolve into the better angel we all aspire to be, will capture the imagination of readers and leave them wanting to relive this mad, irresistibly moving, ridiculously funny, reflective and inspiring cross-country odyssey again and again.

If you know me at all you know that I picked this book 100% on the premise of a "raucous road-trip based a travel guide from a yard sale" because if that doesn't scream "Sara would absolutely do this", I don't know what would. I went into this ready for an adventure, but likely with some greater story being woven along that I don't realize until the end, much like Michael Zadoorian's The Leisure Seeker

What I got was something entirely different, and didn't quite get there for me. I'm not saying it's not a good book, I'm saying that this is 3 star at best from me and that's because I do understand what the author was going for here, I think it was a bigger bite than he could chew. 

The book is long, almost entirely too long, and there is a solid third, maybe even half that I think could be taken out. It's philosophical when it doesn't need to be, we are beating the horse well beyond death with the explanation that this is a father/son, and some things are added in that don't really matter so why are we including them? When the action/funnier things happen, the book is exciting and you find yourself wanting more of that, not so much life lessons and explanations of why things are the way they are and what we could've, should've, would've dones. 

Overall, it's a 2.5 star, rounded to 3 for me. I didn't not like it, but it's one that I think maybe a guy would enjoy more (here's me clearly being sexist, admittedly). As a mom, these aren't necessarily the thoughts I have or what I would do, or the kind of relationship I have with my kids, so I didn't really get it, if that makes sense. Maybe it's a dad thing? Maybe it's a son thing? While the book wasn't a stellar hit for me, I do think it would make a good gift for a dad in your life, maybe even with a road trip adventure book and a week of your time. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Global Collective Publishers for sending me a copy for review!
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