Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Going Somewhere by Brian Benson

Brian Benson was directionless, traveling in Guatemala, when he met Rachel. He was immediately drawn to her voice and to her as a person, becoming first her friend and then her boyfriend. Their bike trip was originally Rachel's idea but Brian was more than willing to make her dream of a cross-country bike ride his too. Once they were both back in the States, they worked towards making that dream a reality. Starting in Benson's small Wisconsin hometown, the two of them prepared for their long ride and ignored people who questioned the intelligence of their vision.

Feeling like they wanted to go where serendipity took them, they didn't plan a route; they just took off, headed somewhere as yet undefined out on the West Coast. And this lack of a plan for a unified future was the first problem that Brian and Rachel faced but it certainly wasn't the last one. Benson's bike broke down several times; they endured noisy, exhaust filled highways; Benson felt irrational resentment towards Rachel for not being able to keep up with him, especially on hills; they faced physical fatigue and discomfort; fought mental battles with themselves; experienced disagreements and relationship hardships; and battled the physical elements, driving wind, heat, and rain.

As the two of them rode through everything they encountered, they learned a lot about themselves, had amazing adventures, experienced the kindness of strangers, and had at least one adrenaline-racing scary encounter. Benson captures well the frustration and sheer stubborn doggedness as well as the exhilaration and joy that is always a part of any trip like this. Unfortunately, the former seemed to form a disproportionate piece of the journey. Perhaps it was this imbalance that led the book to feel a bit repetitive. Benson was at his best, however, when writing about the countryside they biked through. His descriptions and observations were wonderful and the reader could, at every turn, clearly see the country laid out in front of them. Much of the ride seems to be a journey to try and find himself, to better understand his relationship and his place in it, and to locate the path to the future.  Because Benson is the one telling of his experiences, Rachel remains shallowly drawn and it feels like he often glosses over points where her opinions would matter and even potentially color the narrative differently. The premise was fascinating for sure but as meditative as this was, it probably won't inspire me to go on any long bike rides any time soon.

Thanks to the publisher and LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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