Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: The Ride of Our Lives

Book Review: The Ride of Our Lives
        
Author:  Mike Leonard
        
Date: 2006
        
Publisher: Ballantine
        
ISBN: 0-345-48148-8
        
Length: 230 pages
        
Illustrations: black-and-white photos
        
Quote: “Less than half an hour into the adventure...the wheels had already come off.”
        
In this book Mike Leonard of Today Show fame, his wife, his parents, and his (grown-up) children take a month-long road trip. You’ve read about, and very likely even taken, wilder road trips...but grandparents were probably not involved.
        
This is a funny, sad, heartwarming story of two hardworking, lovable Irish-Americans taking their upwardly mobile children on a tour of their long and lucky lives, culminating with the birth of the first great-grandchild.
        
The blurb on the jacket describes the senior Leonards as “world-class originals.” They’re not. Luck and toughness apart, they’re so typy they’re practically stereotypes. He’s the perpetually disappointed optimist, she’s the frequently favorably surprised pessimist. Both talk like the sort of people who might have tried being comedians if they hadn’t had real jobs. They were reasonably attractive young people who matured into splendidly preserved eighty-somethings. They did their work every day, they sent the children to school, they bought nice houses in nice neighborhoods. Whaddayaknow, one of their children wound up on TV. Mrs. Leonard, not imaginative with names but smart enough to be a plausible forger, helped secure Mike Leonard’s job with NBC by sending fan mail in the names of all her departed friends and relatives.
        
Now they’re close enough to stardom that Ballantine not only published Mike Leonard’s account of the family vacation trip, but bound into the book a DVD on which you can watch this semi-celebrity family, live. Yes, my copy has the disk.
        
If you’re a fan of Mike Leonard’s you’ll love this book. If you’re like me, and watch TV only when you’re ill or sitting up with someone who is, so that you didn’t recognize Leonard’s name, I can tell you that you’ll enjoy meeting his family.
        
Maybe, if your elders or the places where they lived are widely scattered, you’ll even start planning a road trip of your own. Road trips are among the most popular retirement fantasies in America. Maybe you have a parent or grandparent who’s hoping The Ride of Our Lives will give you ideas. Maybe you are the parent or grandparent of grown-up, married offspring who would enjoy road-tripping with you.
        
"Car-free Pris is recommending a road trip?" Yes. If you don’t drive unnecessarily when you’re at home, you’re probably consuming less gas than a person who thinks he has to take the car to run around the block, and I'd be the last person to tell you to feel guilty about travelling by car every few years. Cars would have been a blessing to humankind, and could still be one, if we’d been able to control our urge to consume conspicuously—spending five dollars’ worth of gas to save two dollars on groceries, driving in a procession of five vehicles because no two of the five people in your household can agree on a radio station, cruising around in cars just to kill time—and saved the fossil fuels for treks across the prairie.

The Ride of Our Lives can be purchased as a Fair Trade Book for $5 + $5 shipping, from which Mike Leonard or his charity will receive $1. As always, you pay only one shipping price for as many items as we can ship in one package.