Engaging fluff, as Catholic priest and former Notre Dame president Hesburgh (God, Country, Notre Dame, 1990) spends his first year in retirement poking around the world. The title is obviously modeled on Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, and Hesburgh occasionally approaches the Nobel Prize winner's intoxicating on-the-open-road air of freedom, but never his psychological complexities. In fact, most of the characters here remain nothing more than names; this is even true of Hesburgh's rather invisible fellow traveler, Fr. Ned Joyce, former vice-president of Notre Dame. The fun comes in the traveling itself, which holds no surprises but moves swiftly from sight to sight. First the pair take an RV on a 12-week cruise out west. They concelebrate Mass each day; visit friends; marvel at the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone. On a side flight to Alaska, the two fish for salmon and meet with bishops, professors, and Indians. Next stop is Latin America, where they dine with various national leaders, trap alligators in the Amazon, and wander the ruins of Machu Picchu. Here, the book briefly becomes more somber, as Hesburgh encounters survivors of Argentine political terror. After a short stop in New York for the Heisman Trophy dinner, it's all aboard the QE II as chaplains during a spin of the Caribbean, followed by an around-the-world cruise. Hesburgh reads Allan Bloom near the Panama Canal, chats with Ruby Keeler and George McGovern, finds Tahiti hot, India crowded, China awash in red tape (he's not strong on novel observations). Finally, the gung-ho travelers make it to Antarctica, where Hesburgh admires the penguins and argues, unsuccessfully, with a Polish bully who rejects his request to say Mass. Hesburgh justifies his lark with some words of encouragement to other retirees—few of whom could afford even a portion of these travels. This embarrassment aside, the excellent adventures of Ted & Ned prove a fine antidote to cabin fever.
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