Friday, October 2, 2020

Book Review: The Detour

Michael Garland’s is so good at getting lost that the thirty-year old coder lives an almost virtual life. He works from home, shops exclusively online—and does not drive. The poor man is shocked to discover his mother’s last wish is that he bring her ashes in the old family Volvo from San Francisco to her childhood hometown of Lebanon, N.H. Guilt for reaching his mother’s deathbed too late will fuel the trip—with additional gas supplied by his mother’s Pug, Puddles, he must bring along. Armed with a GPS, a series of ever-more detailed lists, and the support of his best friend, Savannah, he embarks on an emotional side trip that will change his life. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Sara Steven:

One of the many things I appreciated about The Detour is how each character within it will have an effect on the way the story has been written. Michael Garland is the primary character, and when we read about what is experienced from his point of view, the tone and scenery very much reflects the personality of who he is, a man who prefers to be a shut in within his apartment than to step outside into the great big world. This type of finely tuned nuance also reflects onto the other characters, giving the reader an even better opportunity at feeling as though they’re right there in the thick of it.

The plot is a unique one. Michael’s mother has given him her final wishes, and they pretty much go against every single lifestyle choice and comfort zone level he has set in place. I felt like I was sitting in the passenger’s seat of the Volvo with Puddles on my lap, an opportunity to witness what it must be like for someone who has set such strict rules and found that life has a way of interfering and changing up the status quo. As much as he doesn’t want an adventure, the entirety of The Detour was just that; one huge adventure from one coast to another. There are plenty of mishaps and misadventures, but there were a lot of moments of growth, too.

My favorite thing about this novel are the great characters and their relationships. You have Michael, of course, and then there’s Savannah, his best friend. It’s obvious that they complement one another, that their opposite personalities serve as a way to boost Michael along while he travels the country, at the same time grounding Savannah and reminding her that she has someone in her corner, too. Even Michael’s mother’s personality shines through in flashbacks and letters, allowing a glimpse into the woman who raised Michael, a welcome addition to the background information needed on why Michael is the way he is and in a sense, where he comes from. Puddles is a sweet addition, too, another facet that helps to show Michael’s more sensitive side, even though he tries to resist it. The unexpected expectations placed on Michael, the experiences he has while on his road trip, the inner conflicts and growth are fun to read, but it’s the characters who really stood out for me and made this a worthy five-star read. Speaking of characterization, I enjoy seeing who Melissa has picked to play these fantastic characters for her movie casting suggestions! (I even helped with a couple of them.)

Melissa Amster:

Having enjoyed Jennifer Ammoscato's Avery Fowler series, I was delighted to learn that she had published a new novel. I wasn't sure what to expect from this one at first, but I quickly got into the story and adored it the entire way through. Not only is it about Michael and his adventures, but also about his best friend Savannah and Michael's impact on her life. I enjoyed reading about Michael's journey across the US and all his little quirks. Puddles sounded so cute. I also liked the flashback scenes and even the parts involving Michael's client. 

Interesting coincidence: I was reading part of this novel on September 11th and Michael happened to visit the 9/11 memorial while I was reading it that day. 

Something funny, in a cool way: Michael mentioned an ideal day to get married would be "Pie Day", which is March 14th. That's my anniversary! 

I felt like things happened too fast at the end and the time period should have extended further into the future to encompass everything. I also found an inconsistency toward the beginning that I hope was ironed out in the final publication. While I know that the author is Canadian, if her character is American, I feel that the way words were spelled should have reflected this fact. None of this took away from my overall enjoyment though.

I hope Jennifer will continue to write more deliciously fun novels, perhaps to expand upon Michael's story or give us an entirely new set of interesting characters to follow. This was a sweet story overall and I'm pleased to recommend it!

Movie casting suggestions:
Michael: Max Minghella
Savannah: Kristen Hager or Samara Weaving (Sara's pick)
Elizabeth: Michelle Trachtenberg
Thomas: Michael Shannon
Evelyn (flashbacks): Mary Lynn Rajskub or Kathryn Hahn (Sara's pick)

Thanks to Jennifer Ammoscato for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jennifer Ammoscato:

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