Friday, February 10, 2012

Destroying Demons on the Diagonal Review

The author, Jeff Sambur, stayed with us twice through a Warm Showers connection, so as an acquaintance I feel compelled to give an unbiased review. It's also important to note that I too have written a book about a cross country journey (not published), so I appreciate the work involved in editing and organizing journals into readable text. To write, self-publish, advertise, and make money in an overcrowded market is an ambitious proposition. The best thing about digital publishing: the author can make revisions. It's important to note I read the first edition, so I do not know what changes were done in subsequent copies. My husband and I both read the book. We concur on the following review.

If one can get beyond the title and graphics, the subtitle "A Firefighter's San Diego to Maine Bicycle Ride into Retirement" gives a better clue to what's in the book.

Flipping through the novel, initially, the inclusion of maps, especially state by state is unique and well-done. It gives a sense of place that would've otherwise been lost. It lacks photos, however, of small town America that the author writes about in depth.

There is much to love in this book. The author is always on the move and even admits "a tinge of envy for those fortunate souls who can attain happiness and contentment without the need for motion. It was a foreign concept to me." He enjoys history, stopping to read plaques or quick to visit local museums. He journeys along Route 66, a particular fondness, or going out of his way to visit friends or take in minor league baseball games. The fact that Jeff rode over 6000 miles to cross the country shows his journey is not to take the shortest route and be done with it, but to truly enjoy the areas he travels through. Jeff is also gracious, bringing a gift to each host. I admire his knack for engaging strangers and is comfortable doing so—more than I would be.

As a firefighter Jeff's seen many horrific events; he starts each chapter with these narratives. However, his narratives while traveling by bike are full of sarcasm—and the fact that he meets people in bars over beers—I find uncomfortable. My takeaway from this book is the author is lonely, fighting demons that he discovers are not to be wiped out by movement—no matter how many miles under his wheels.

I would've liked more background in the initial chapter about his character: why he rides, relationships, friendships, and family. Bicycle touring is an important part of Jeff's life. The reader deserves to know this upfront.

Towards the end there are poignant events that are satisfying: visits with family and an unforeseen scare that offers Jeff a second chance. It is only then that I catch glimpses of his true character.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Due to increased Spam, I am moderating comments. Thank you for your patience.