The journey can be an incredible adventure, regardless of destination or means. Sometimes there’s an undocumented reason that subconsciously leads someone to embark on an odyssey with no actual plan. These themes are explored by James Vickers in his debut novel, with each chapter label given either “Signs,” Wanderlust” or “Monsters” before the chapter’s title.
Weaving fact and fiction into this tale, the main story features a first-person account of a nameless freelance writer who decides to leave Rhode Island to travel down the East Coast in an SUV. His plan was to see the beaches, parks and towns of neighboring states while ghostwriting articles during the day. An oncoming storm disrupts his route, which leads to him to take a different path in hopes of staying ahead of the weather. The character has a positive outlook on life and unexpected challenges, leading him to take everything thrown at him in stride.
In addition to writing and travelling, the unnamed character spends time getting to know fellow travellers and the local townspeople. While there are some who look at him with an untrusting eye, most accept his presence and take the time to enjoy his company. He seemingly takes the time to get to know those who take interest in him, giving them his full attention and healthy conversation.
God is a recurring theme during this story. The character doesn’t seem to have much of a spiritual side, but fate seems to lead him to people of faith. Some try to push this on him while others just want him to discuss what God means to them. The character takes everything in with an open mind, yearning to learn from other people’s thoughts and feelings. There are also subtle signs of God that he sees while on his travels. These bring him back to try to connect conversations to the signs.
“The boy” is an adolescent growing up with abusive parents and younger siblings who protect each other while leaving him out to dry anytime trouble arises. “The boy” is a troublemaker at school, though not all that much more than the typical mischievous child. He is a misunderstood youth who always seems to get caught with his hand in the hypothetical cookie jar. Having an alcoholic father only led to his further demise of dilemma, while also giving him the feeling of needing to help those not able to help themselves. Often, he would stick up for those knowing that this would only lead to a beating with a leather strap.
While never stated, the reader is led to believe that the unnamed character and “the boy” are the same person. They both have a flair for adventure and a yearning for understanding. It seems that the wanderlust of the character is caused by the monsters who were “the boy’s” parents, especially his father. Growing up was difficult, leaving “the boy” to escape his family without any real plan of action. It seems that the character also wants to escape his life in South County, Rhode Island, though he doesn’t have much of a plan. This is wanderlust at its finest, showcasing those who have the ability and wherewithal to take a risk in hopes of growth.
Vickers weaves everything together nicely, though it took a few chapters to realize his storytelling endeavor. Each chapter is interesting, and more importantly, real. Nothing is sugar coated, as he tells a straight story of a journey. He holds interest while exhuming emotion and provoking thought. He packs a lot into a short, quick read of a novel.
James Vickers will be reading at Askew on Tue, Dec 3 for their Wordsmiths & Storytellers event, which runs from 6:30-8:30pm.