Book Review From the Blog: The Road To Me by Laura DrakeMay 12, 2023
I love to read and my typical genre is either psychological thriller/mystery or historical fiction. From time to time, I stumble upon a book that I feel that the women in this community might enjoy and/or relate to.
I am in a book group that is hosted by Becki Svare that combines a love for reading and a love for travel. Each month, Becki chooses a location somewhere in the world and she chooses two books that are set in that region.
In addition, the author of the book of the month joins our group.
This month's destination was called "Road Trips" and the book of the month was The Road to Me. Meeting the author, Laura Drake, in our group was an absolute treat. She did not disappoint.
Synopsis of "The Road to Me"
"Jacqueline Oliver is an indie perfumer, trying to bury her ravaged childhood by shoveling ground under her own feet. Then she gets a call she dreads - the hippie grandmother she bitterly resents was apprehended when police busted a charlatan shaman's sweat lodge. Others scattered, but Nellie was slowed by her walker, and the fact that she was wearing nothing but a few Mardi-Gras beads. Jacqueline is her only kin, so like it or not, she's responsible."
The book documents Jacqueline and her grandmother's travels and conversations as they make their way along Route 66. Jacqueline learns a lot about her grandmother's life. But, most importantly, she starts to look inward and learns a lot about herself.
The Characters Spoke to Me
Jacqueline really spoke to me.
Jacqueline's mother was alcoholic throughout her entire childhood. This resulted in Jacqueline having a need to control everything and everyone around her - especially her own feelings.
In addition, Jacqueline had to work through a lot of anger at her grandmother, who she felt abandoned by when she was a child. She needed her help throughout her childhood because her mother was drinking.
I so related to all of that. At 60 I finally began to start doing the work to relax a bit in my head. To feel the feelings. To be present. It's been real work but well worth it.
I found myself shaking my head at Jacqueline as I read the book. She denied herself so much joy in order to protect herself. But, as I stopped to really think about her actions and where they came from, I completely understood why she did the things she did.
It's often so easy to look at what someone is doing as an outsider in the situation and see the errors. It's not as easy when it's you and your own situation.
I was also able to see that the actions that we choose to take sometimes to preserve and protect ourselves don't always serve us in the end.
Nellie, the grandmother, was relatable as well. She overcame a lot throughout her life and loved her family. But, like all of us, she had her own issues to deal with along the way.
I'm not sure I'd have been seen walking the streets wearing nothing but Mardi Gras beads, but you had to love her! She lived her life and did her thing!
The Timing of This Read for Me
I finished this book about a week before a scheduled road trip with my mother. As I read about Jacqueline and Nellie's journey, I reflected on my upcoming trip. I had offered to take her to see our beach house that is being built in NC and then we would go to see my granddaughter, her great grand, for her 11th birthday.
I had mixed feelings about this trip and wasn't sure how it would go. Being in close quarters for a longer period of time typically doesn't go well for my mother and me.
Baggage and history.
We ended up just going to see Ro for her birthday and staying in an airbnb for a couple of nights. And, I completely believe that having read this book right before we left, along with my constant work on "being present," played a part in how well the trip turned out.
You see, there is a lot of history and baggage from my childhood. And, although I know that it's okay for me to have feelings about that, I also know that I'm not there anymore. And, neither is my mother.
There is a point where I have to ask myself, "what do I hope to gain by continuing to be angry? What's the point?"
That attitude, coupled with Jacqueline and Nellie's journey in my brain, made for a really decent road trip with my mother.
And she was so happy to be able to go.
It was one of those things where, as I reflected on the timing of this read, I realized that I was meant to read it when I did.
Some Great Quotes
The book is chock full of great, thought provoking quotes. Two of my favorites were:
"The things we fear the most have already happened to us." Laura Drake says author of this one is unknown, but I have found Robin Williams credited with it. This quote really spoke to my anxious side. I've done a lot of hard things and when I think about this quote - it's really true! Now it's time for me to relax and enjoy. To be present. To feel the joy in the everyday moments in my life.
"Suffering is optional." ~Nellie Oliver. Laura Drake talked about this quote in our book group session. She shared about loss in her life and that, yes, we all go through hard things and feel sad, grieve, and hurt at times in our lives. But, those things are different from suffering. From not being aware of the things in our lives that we have to be grateful for, even while we are going through the hard things. I'm coming up on the 37th anniversary of the death of my young husband. That was the worst time in my whole life. But, every morning during that time, I woke up and looked in the faces of my two little boys and smiled through my tears. Suffering is indeed optional.
But, yes, we need to feel the feelings too.
I highly recommend this book. If you do happen to read it, reach out and let me know what you thought of it!