Sachs (If You Lived Here, 2007, etc.) takes a conventional literary device—a road trip—and uses compassion, humor and good writing to transform the journey into a memorable story.
Thirty-five-year-old artist Anna Rosenthal is surprised when she receives a call from her estranged grandmother. They haven’t spoken to each other for five years, ever since Goldie criticized Anna’s determination to marry someone she felt was not right for her granddaughter. Now, Goldie wants Anna to chauffeur her from her home in New York City to San Francisco in her vintage Rolls Royce. She claims she wants to return some artwork entrusted to her when her closest friends, of Japanese descent, were placed in an internment camp during World War II. The prints are breathtakingly beautiful and are links to Goldie’s mysterious past, revealed in flashbacks to the reader as the two travel across the continent. Since theirs is a journey of reconciliation, Anna and Goldie sling verbal spears at each other throughout the trip; but they also have tender moments when Anna believes past wounds are finally healing—until the next contentious round occurs. Anna, a widow for two years, suffers from survivor’s guilt and fears relationships that might once again result in pain and loss, so she evades a suitor’s attempts to contact her. She also resents being told by others that she’s just like her grandmother since she thinks Goldie’s unsympathetic and rigid. But Goldie, a feisty octogenarian, is a paradox: although she’s been used to the finer things in life for years, she’s perfectly happy sleeping in Hampton Inns and dining at chain restaurants as she traverses America. And though she refuses to indulge Anna in her grief, she’s unstintingly supportive of and kind to strangers, no matter their station in life. Never forget, she reminds Anna, that every person has value.
A solid story.