Review of ‘Strapped into an American Dream’

Review of ‘Strapped into an American Dream’
I’m a huge sucker for travel memoirs. Since it’s impossible for me to go everywhere and live every kind of nomadic lifestyle, I heavily rely on others to write about their travel experiences so I can get lost in them. I’m especially fond of the rare RV travel memoir, so when I hear about one, I get my hands on it as quickly as I can. I recently became aware of the book Strapped into an American Dream, written by Glenn Maynard. The book recounts Maynard and his former wife’s yearlong honeymoon adventure as the newlyweds traveled the lower forty-eight states, a little bit of Canada, and took a quick jaunt over the border into Mexico.

In the beginning of the book, we learn that a visit to Florida gets the couple questioning if there was more to life than what they were living. They began asking themselves some big questions so they could figure out what it would take to make them fall in love with their life. They decided to throw off the shackles of their conventional routines and do something different; and so the seeds for their road trip adventure were planted.

One of the things I liked about this book was how much I could relate to what the author, his wife Tracy, and their dog Molly were going through. Anybody who has spent a reasonable amount of time in an RV knows the trials and tribulations of holding tanks that are too full, extreme tiredness while driving, etc. I was right along with them when they left Canada because the gas prices were too high. I chuckled with recognition as they searched high and low for free campgrounds to keep their budget low. I totally understood their need to settle down for awhile and make some money to keep their trip going. And I felt for them when they continued to attract bad weather in many of the places they visited.

Maynard painted some unique descriptions of many of the places they visited. He was really adept at writing brief, yet informative, historical backgrounds as well. Plus, there was good pacing in some of the tense scenes, along with many great chapter openings.

Overall though, I was hoping for more from the book. I wanted the chance to get to know the author and his wife and what really made them tick. While Maynard does offer us some back-story in the opening as to why each of them would benefit from going on this adventure, he doesn’t really keep us posted throughout. Somewhere early on in the book, he reduces sharing the more personal tales in favor of describing the mundane details of the day-to-day occurrences. His book then becomes a souped-up version of his journal entries leaving me feeling somewhat shut off from their emotions and therefore without much reason to truly care about what happened to the traveling trio. Did the RV trip make them love their life? Was it hard on their relationship? Was it a life-changing experience for either of them? Did they learn something about themselves? I couldn’t be sure. Plus, I felt there were lost opportunities to recreate some truly captivating parts of their trip. For instance, they meet many interesting characters along the way and have conversations with these folks, but Maynard rarely resorts to using dialog in the book. He recounts some of words that were exchanged in lieu of dialogue in many cases. My mantra throughout the book was “show me, don’t tell me!”

I just wish Maynard committed more when telling the story; more of the nitty gritty details going on in their minds as they wandered the highways. I wanted to hear the fight that ensued when they were both tired and grouchy because the thunderstorm kept them from getting a good night’s sleep. That would have put me right where I longed to be—sitting in between the captain and co-captain chairs in front cab their rig.

While I’m not sure if their excursion made them love their life any more while they were on the trip, I do believe that it ultimately made the couple appreciate the life they left behind and went back to after their adventure was over.

Editor’s note: I purchased this book with my own money at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon. I have no connection to the author or the publishing company of this book.

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