Monday, October 08, 2012

BC2012: Breakfast at the Exit Cafe: Travels Through America

When I saw this at The Book Cellar last month, I was hesitant to buy it. I have a lot of road trip books that I haven't read yet. Did I really need another? Then I looked at the map tracing the route that married Canadian writers Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds followed across the United States. There were many familiar cities and towns including Lost Hills, CA; Bakersfield, CA; Needles, CA; Roswell, NM; Albany, TX; Mineral Wells, TX; Jackson, MS; Selma, AL; Montgomery, AL..... The authors drove many of the same roads I pedaled on my cross-country bike trip ten years ago! Yes, I did need another road trip book.

I enjoyed much of this book and appreciated the Canadian perspective, at least until they got to Texas. Then everything seemed to be about race. Why is it that foreigners accuse Americans of being obsessed with race, and then they visit and all they can talk/write/think about is race? This pair beat that topic to death all the way through the southeastern states. Every encounter with a black person in the service industry became an opportunity to make some observation about slavery. Seriously, I've read books with "race" in the subtitle that weren't as fixated on the topic. Ironically, I decided I was sick of them right around the same time they got sick of each other and their journey (every group of travelers has its limit -- my wife and I can go about 19 days before we crack). I slogged through the remaining 40-50 pages and things got a little better even though they kept writing about slavery all the way to New Jersey.

It's too bad their obsession kind of spoiled what had been a decent (not great) book. I did learn a lot, though, even about the places I had already been. On the other hand, I noticed a bunch of factual errors so I'm not sure whether I should trust what I thought I learned. I really wanted to like Breakfast at the Exit Cafe, but I'd probably give it only two stars.

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