Loved it! 😍

In Michael Doane’s debut novel, a young man embarks on an epic road trip to find his Love. As he traverses the backroads from coast to coast, he learns to forget the past, live in the moment, and appreciate the diversity of America.

Synopsis

Written in the same tradition as On the Road and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Michael Doane’s The Crossing explores what it means to exist in 21st century America.

She’s out on a pier, deep in the ocean. A tidal wave is coming. Standing at the edge of the earth where the sand is swallowed up by the salty sea, I call for her…

So begins a young man’s journey west in search of his lost love. Haunted by nightmares of her memory, our nameless hero leaves home looking to solve a mystery. In the end, he discovers much more than he set out to find.

In Doane’s debut novel, a young man embarks on a journey of self-discovery with surprising results.

An unnamed protagonist (The Narrator) is dealing with heartbreak. His love, determined to see the world, sets out for Portland, Oregon. But he’s a small-town boy who hasn’t traveled much. So, the Narrator mourns her loss and hides from life, throwing himself into rehabbing an old motorcycle. Until one day, he takes a leap; he packs his bike and a few belongings and heads out to find the Girl.

Following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and William Least Heat-Moon, Doane offers a coming of age story about a man finding himself on the backroads of America. Doane’s a gifted writer with fluid prose and insightful observations, using The Narrator’s personal interactions to illuminate the diversity of the United States.

The Narrator initially sticks to the highways, trying to make it to the West Coast as quickly as possible. But a hitchhiker named Duke convinces him to get off the beaten path and enjoy the ride. “There’s not a place that’s like any other,” [39] Dukes contends, and The Narrator realizes he’s right. Suddenly, the trip is about the journey, not just the destination. The Narrator ditches his truck and traverses the deserts and mountains on his bike. He destroys his phone, cutting off ties with his past and living only in the moment.

As he crosses the country, The Narrator connects with several unique personalities whose experiences and views deeply impact his own. Duke, the complicated cowboy and drifter, who opens The Narrator’s eyes to a larger world. Zooey, the waitress in Colorado who opens his heart and reminds him that love can be found in this big world. And Rosie, The Narrator’s sweet landlady in Portland, who helps piece him back together both physically and emotionally.

This supporting cast of characters is excellent. Duke, in particular, is wonderfully nuanced and complicated. He’s a throwback to another time, a man without a cell phone who reads Sartre and sleeps under the stars. Yet he’s also a grifter with a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude that harms those around him. It’s fascinating to watch The Narrator wrestle with Duke’s behavior, trying to determine which to model and which to discard.

Doane creates a relatable protagonist in The Narrator, whose personal growth doesn’t erase his faults. His willingness to hit the road with few resources is admirable, and he’s prescient enough to recognize the jealousy of those who cannot or will not take the leap. His encounters with new foods, places, and people broaden his horizons. Yet his immaturity and selfishness persist. He tells Rosie she’s been a good mother to him but chooses to ignore the continuing concern from his own parents as he effectively disappears from his old life.

Despite his flaws, it’s a pleasure to accompany The Narrator on his physical and emotional journey. The unexpected ending is a fitting denouement to an epic and memorable road trip.

Reviewed by

Emily Weisner Thompson is a writer and historian who has been involved in the world of communications and publications for over ten years. She is the author of three books, scores of blog posts, and countless book reviews. As a former National Park Ranger and Museum Director, she's gained extensive experience in historic sites, non-profit management, and public affairs. Thompson is an avid reader and horseback rider. She currently lives in Indiana with her Park Ranger husband, crazy kids, and adoring Labrador.

Synopsis

Written in the same tradition as On the Road and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Michael Doane’s The Crossing explores what it means to exist in 21st century America.

She’s out on a pier, deep in the ocean. A tidal wave is coming. Standing at the edge of the earth where the sand is swallowed up by the salty sea, I call for her…

So begins a young man’s journey west in search of his lost love. Haunted by nightmares of her memory, our nameless hero leaves home looking to solve a mystery. In the end, he discovers much more than he set out to find.

Catalyst

Google said the trip would take forty-two hours on toll roads. Two thousand eight hundred and twenty-five miles in forty-two hours. Just under two days. I figured I could do it in four.

I packed a couple changes of clothes, a sleeping bag, and a week’s worth of food: granola bars, bananas, water, and some iced tea. I had nine hundred dollars in my bank account.
The plan was to find rest stops along the way and sleep in the cab of my little 1995 F-150. I’d just sprawl out across the bench seat and rest easy, no problem.
My mother was the catalyst. She’d come to me a few days before I left, over breakfast.
“How are you?” she asked, like mothers do.
“Fine,” I said.
There wasn’t much to be said those days. Most of my friends had gone off to college or were finding themselves in bad situations. I’d been hiding myself away. Work, eat, sleep. Rinse and repeat. Avoiding reality.
“You’re looking thin. You’re tired.”
“I’m fine, really.” I didn’t look up from my plate, just moved the food around with a fork.
“Eat up.”
There was silence for a while, but I could feel her watching.
“I know it hurts. She was a good girl.”
I couldn’t believe she’d bring her up. This was my burden to carry. It was none of her business.
“We all experience heartbreak. But we have to move on. It’ll take time, darling, I know that, but just know you can talk to me.”
I looked up and glared. Held the fork tight and bit my tongue. Her eyes were piercing yet gentle.
“You don’t have to hole yourself up and go through this alone.”
She couldn’t understand. She’d never understand. It was insulting that she’d suggest she did. I pushed my plate forward, dropped my fork on it hard, and ran to my room. Locked the door and shut her out. I heard her calling for me but wanted none of it.
That night I began packing my things. I knew she hadn’t left me for good. I knew she’d welcome me if I went to her.
The map showed a direct route up past Harrisburg, across Cleveland and Chicago, then through the Midwest. Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho. I’d be in Oregon in no time. I-84 would take me straight to Portland.
Seemed simple enough. I was upset, but being on the road immediately felt freeing. I knew I was heading toward her, and that made me happy. It was a light shining through the darkness.
I’d never planned to go far from home, never even considered it a possibility. My family hardly traveled. We never had much money, and my parents weren’t adventurous. We spent vacations in dumpy little places near Deep Creek Lake or Ocean City, always twenty or thirty minutes from the water.
“Three hours either way and you have everything you need.” That’s how my father described Maryland. “Why’d you want to go anywhere else? We got mountains in the west, the coast in the east, and we’re forty-five minutes from the city.”
It was all I’d ever known: Why’d you ever want to leave?
In those first hours on the road, I began to understand. There I was running across the US like a fool. A fool in love. For a woman who was gone.
I was exhilarated.

About the author

Michael Doane was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1989. He studied classical literature and languages at the University of Maryland, and now lives in rural Maryland with his wife, Emily. In his spare time he hikes, travels, and reads as often as possible. view profile

Published on October 17, 2016

Published by Kalmia Books

30000 words

Genre: Young adult

Reviewed by

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