14 May 2016
Catherine Ryan Hyde: Take Me With You
Every now and again I come across a story that will remain in my memory for a long time. It is heartwarming, emotional, and will make you laugh and cry.
August is a divorced high school science teacher who has lost his 19 year old son Phillip in a car accident. He is still grieving and as an alcoholic hasn't had a drink since his son's death. He plans a very special and personal summer tour of the main national parks of the US. A small plastic bottle in the glove box contains some of Phillip's ashes which he will scatter at key places during the tour.
His RV breaks down in a very small desert town and he is forced to rely on a small repair shop run by Wes (who is also an alcoholic). He is almost desperate because the cost of the repairs could force him to cancel the trip. When the vehicle is repaired Wes offers to waive the cost of the repairs if August takes his two boys on the tour. Wes is about to spend the summer in jail after several DUI convictions and the boys would otherwise spend the time in State care.
August reluctantly agrees to take the boys, 12-year-old Seth, and 7-year-old Henry, with him on the tour. At the start, his small part–Jack Russell terrier, Woody, is the only one delighted with the deal. Seth is a bright and motivated young boy who is excited at everything he sees. He is devoted to his younger emotionally disturbed brother who hasn't spoken for some years.
There follows a heartwarming story that grabs your attention and emotions as the two boys and August get to know one another and explore the wonders of the Western National Parks. They help August to cope with his grief as they develop a personal attachment to him which is far greater than the one to their father.
The main characters in this book will remain with you for a long time. August is always honest and frank with the two boys about his alcoholism and his loneliness. Seth is forever enthusiastic and caring for his younger brother. Henry slowly gains confidence and starts to speak again. The boys' relationship with their father doesn't improve as he lies to them again and again.
As an Aussie, one of the highlights of my world travels has been visiting the wonderful national parks in western USA. This book brought back so many memories of these unique places which the author describes so brilliantly.
I listened to this book as an audiobook, brilliantly narrated by Jeff Cummings. I highly recommend this book and will definitely read other books by this author. This was definitely 5 star material.