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Driving Sideways: A Novel Paperback – May 20, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
This seemingly endless road trip novel has the potential to become a thrill ride, but it makes too many wrong turns and never gets above low gear. After receiving a kidney transplant, 28-year-old Leigh Fielding notices some strange developments: sudden interests in, for instance, graphic novels, kayaking and ethnic food. Convinced she's channeling the spirit of her donor, Larry Resnick, Leigh decides to go on an Unfinished Business Tour, visiting her best friend, an ex-boyfriend and her mother, and tracking down Larry's family. The notion of Leigh inheriting Larry's traits and tastes is explored amusingly and a few surprises pop up (a supposedly stranded teenage girl among them), but Riley puts too much stock in Leigh's voice, which, while sometimes funny, is too self-involved to leave much room for the reader. This particular trip is too long and exhausting for its own good. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Leigh Fielding was diagnosed with kidney disease and recently received a transplant. Since then, she’s been trying all kinds of new things and comes to believe that she’s channeling the donor, Larry. She decides to leave her central Wisconsin home for a road trip to meet Larry’s family and see if he’s anything like the new personality she has acquired. Things go awry at the Minnesota border when a teenage girl named Denise steals Leigh’s purse and uses it to blackmail Leigh into giving her a ride to L.A. On the way they visit classic tourist traps and try to stay out of trouble, especially since Denise claims that it’s her crazy ex in the black sedan that seems to be following them. Leigh’s road trip continues, embracing both highs and lows, alternately hilarious, humiliating, and heartbreaking, often within the same sentence. Smart and funny without being forced, sentimental without being maudlin, Riley’s funny, picaresque vision of America will make readers wish they could go along with Leigh on her next trip. --Hilary Hatton
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Top customer reviews
Twenty-something Leigh has recently received a kidney transplant after years of dialysis, and now that she's free of having dialysis three times a week, she decides to hit the road (over the strenuous objections of her brother). She wants to stop and see friends in Colorado and then go on to meet the family of the donor of her kidney (they're in Utah, she's in Wisconsin, finally ending up in California trying to find her mother, who abandoned the family when she was a small child. And then there's a former boyfriend Leigh stops to see...
At just about the first rest-stop, Leigh ends up with a hitchhiking runaway teenager named Denise. Denise is one of the more memorable characters in novels -- you could imagine an adjective based on her name and characteristics. She's both delightful and shady at the same time. You can never quite tell what she's really up to or how much you can believe her. In Colorado, Leigh's best friend Jillian is introduced -- a somewhat less novel character (she's into crystals), but still lively.
The escapades along the way -- many at places I've been, like the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, and Wall Drug -- make you want to hit the road yourself. The author captures the feel of road trips, including the increasing irritability as the drive progresses and everyone is starting to run out of things to talk about and is tired of sitting in a car.
I thought that the book was less compelling after Denise was dropped off in California --probably because Denise was such an entertaining character. However, Leigh's tale of living with kidney disease provides a novel twist to the road trip genre, as does her honesty about what it's like and good humor alternating with expressions of fear of dying before she's 30. The book is amusing even though it deals with such a serious topic. I can hardly wait for the next novel by this author, and hope she continues Leigh's story. Or Denise's!
There are two ways to tell a story about, for instance, the time you were bitten by a dog. You might say, "I was walking up to the corner store one day and a little brown dog got away from his owner and bit my ankle." That pretty much covers it. On the other hand, we all know that person who would tell the same story this way: "I was walking to the store last Tuesday, no, Wednesday, or was it Thursday? No, it was Wednesday because it was my brother's birthday and I needed to buy candles for his cake because he was turning thirty and I only had twenty eight candles. Oh, wait, it WAS Tuesday because it was the day before his birthday! Well, anyway, there was this lady walking toward me and she had a beagle. No, a dachshund. Or was it a shih tzu? Oh, right it was a cocker spaniel..." The latter example is how this book is written.
The premise was good and the potential was there for a good light read. It is unfortunate that the author got sidetracked so frequently and in painful detail. As a voracious reader, I tend to finish several books in a week but this one dragged on until I realized that I had spent more time on it than the protagonist did on her two-week trip.
Admittedly, it may be that I no longer identify with twenty-eight-year-olds taking roadtrips to examine their lives because, at twenty eight, I was rearing three children and otherwise being a grownup. But I digress. I'll stop now.
The last chapter or two, though, felt rushed. All of a sudden, there were all these details about what the main character, Leigh, planned to do and where she was going to take her life and it felt too much like a checklist. I feel like it could have been paced more evenly.
Overall, though, I really liked it.
Most recent customer reviews
Why did I wait so lone to read this book? Leigh Fielding lives with her brother and his wife about 30 minutes from where I am sitting.Read more