The Road Trip
Beth O’Leary’s The Road Trip should have ticked all my boxes – I love a road trip book, forced proximity is fun, and I’m a sucker for second chances. Additionally, Ms. O’Leary’s first two books were delightful. This one? Not so much. Why? Well, let’s get into it.
Dylan and Addie met in Provence, four years previous to our story. Dylan was staying at a mutual friend’s estate, and Addie was working there on staff. They fell hopelessly in love. Two years previous to our story, they stopped speaking. At the start of our story, the cars they are in literally crash into each other in a Tesco parking lot while they’re on their way to a wedding in rural Scotland.
The book is four stories; Addie in the present, Addie in the past, Dylan in the present, Dylan in the past, and it jumps between all four of them at a speed I found dizzying. When you add in the other three characters who were also in the cars, and their particular baggage… y’all, this book is exhausting.
While this is a romance novel in the strictest of senses – the focus is the romantic relationship of the protagonists, which ends happily – it feels different. Not only does it cover alcoholism, depression, sexual assault, homophobic parents, and a few other sundry issues of being human, but it just feels heavier. The charm that was present in Ms. O’Leary’s first two books would have been welcome here, but I had a hard time finding it.
The Road Trip tries to do too much, and so instead of being able to sink into a story, I found myself catapulting between the lived traumas of several folks, wondering all along how this was going to end well. It does, by the way! People use their words, healing either begins or is in process, and all five of the members of the road trip leave this book better than when it started.
Readers’ mileage will vary on The Road Trip, as it does most arduous journeys. I’ve read a lot of other reviews of this book while writing this one, and it appears that a person’s enjoyment of it hangs on a few things: whether one likes the flashback plot device, how one feels about spending time with these secondary characters, and amount of ‘real life’ one wants in ones’ fiction. For the record, I am wary of the first, I like more balance on the second than we get here, and I’m usually two really big thumbs up on the third. I think it was the whiplash of the time jumps that made this all feel … meh to me. Yes, I think that’s the word that fits this. To me, this book was ‘meh;’ I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t hate it, and if someone else loves it, that’s lovely.
I’m already looking forward to Ms. O’Leary’s next work, which I hope echoes The Flatshare more than The Road Trip does.