Each year David and I take a road trip from Boston to Ohio for Christmas and every other year we drive from Boston to Florida for Thanksgiving. While I am not a fan of driving long distances, I seem to always have such a great time with David on these epic trails. We listen to music, play with the pups in the back seat, make stops here and there, eat tons of junk food, and just watch the landscape fly by. Beyond these trips it never dawned on me to take a cross country road trip. To be honest the idea seemed a bit repulsive. One or two days in the car was fine but did I really want to spend more then that just driving and driving and driving?
After reading Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, I absolutely do!! The story is told beautifully. Amy and Roger, two relative strangers, need to drive Amy’s family car from California to Connecticut. We learn early on that Amy’s father has died and the remaining family members are transplanting to start fresh out on the East Coast. Throughout the road trip, chapters are interwoven of life three months earlier right before the “accident” that took Amy’s father’s life and changed her family. Overcome by grief yet overwhelmed by the move, Amy has not had time to process the loss really. This road trip which was planned out by her mother to be quick turns into an adventure as Roger and Amy take a variety of detours. Each brings with them a series of walls that surround them from the outside world. Yet as the trip takes on its twists and turns and lack of gas and crazy times, both Roger and Amy begin to break down these walls, live life, love, and move forward. What makes the book even more appealing are the personal touches sprinkled throughout. Amy keeps a scrapbook on the trip collecting receipts, playlists, doodles, state mottos, and anecdotes that are hand drawn in the book. It made me feel as though I had somehow joined them by getting a glimpse into their collection of artifacts along the way. You later find out in the author’s notes that Matson had done this exact road trip herself stopping along the way at the characters’ rest stops.
What I liked most about this novel is its touching portrayal of loss. I read this book on the flight down and back from West Palm Beach where David and I visited with his family. And, as I read this on the plane, so many lines truly resonated:
“Tomorrow will be better.”
“But what if it’s not?” I asked.
“Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know, right? At some point, tomorrow will be better.”
I blinked them back, hard. I had a feeling that if I let myself start crying, there was a very real possibility I would never stop again.”
“A man on a quest. A Don Quixote searching for his Dulcinea. But keep in mind my good friend, Don Quixote never found his Dulcinea, did he? He did not. There sometimes isn’t much difference between a knight’s quest and a fool’s errand.”
“I’d found out that when you’re never going to see someone again, it’s not the good-bye that matters. What matters is that you’re never going to be able to say anything else to them, and you’re left with an eternal unfinished conversation.”
This last quote about goodbyes resonated with me the most. I dog-eared the page and sat there thinking about why this line about loss was having such an impact. I closed the book not knowing why but liking that it did nonetheless. The next morning, I found out that my grandmother passed away. I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to her. And I felt the sentiments of this quote rush over me. The loss of my grandmother is painful and raw. Being left with our eternal unfinished conversation is making me feel as though there are not enough tears to express this deepest loss.