Title: The Detour: A Road Trip with My Mom, Her Pug, and a 1986 Volvo
Author: Jennifer Ammoscato
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Michael Garland, an applications developer and self-confessed recluse, is about to upend his life in order to fulfil his mother’s last request before she died: for him to visit her childhood home of Lebanon—the one located in New Hampshire, as opposed to the country that is perpetually rife with political conflict. In a trusty old Volvo, accompanied by his mother’s pug Puddles and his best friend Savannah, Michael will go on a road trip that would challenge everything he’s ever known about himself, his relationships, and the way he’s been living his life up to that point.
This book was largely driven by its engaging central character. Michael Garland was written in such a way that audiences will immediately feel invested in the outcome of all his adventures. His idiosyncrasies and eccentricities were portrayed with subtlety so as to avoid turning him into a one-dimensional caricature. His inner voice was the perfect blend of sarcasm and snark, making the glimpses we have into his inner world as entertaining as it was illuminating.
Michael’s relationship with his mother was told mostly in flashbacks. This book is proof that when this technique is used in the right way, it can add rather than detract from the story. The scenes gave readers a deeper understanding of the nature of the relationship between mother and son. There were little touches that alluded to how significant she was in shaping Michael as he is when readers first meet him. Evelyn Garland, despite her death, was very much alive throughout this book.
The relationship with the female main character Savannah would have benefitted from the same careful attention. Although the author did a good job of creating tension and showing the chemistry between the two main characters, the actual pay-off did not quite live up to the build-up. The resolution of the central conflict felt rushed and a bit contrived, and it would have been better to see the relationship as something that developed organically rather than through a series of plot devices.
This book is tightly plotted and well-paced. Despite a premise that has been written about in countless other books, the way she developed the narrative subverted expectations and surprises at every turn. However, the true strength of this book lies in the author’s writing style. The light, almost conversational tone and the crisp and witty dialogue all combined to showcase the story that the author was trying to tell her readers. The humor provided a stark contrast to the underlying issues of anxiety and mental health that were being explored in this book and only highlighted these issues to a greater effect.
The Detour is a story about finding the strength to overcome personal obstacles, facing your fears, and taking chances so you never have to wonder what might have been. Funny, poignant, and inspiring, with a character that readers won’t be able to help but root for, this is escapism at its best. Light, easy, and charming, it is the quintessential summer beach reading and will delight many a romantic fiction fan.
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