Kokoris (The Pursuit of Other Interests, 2009) aims to balance issue-oriented domestic drama with levity in this story about a middle-aged man who sets off in the family van for a life-changing road trip with his autistic son.
John Nichols, a 57-year-old divorced high school teacher, former college basketball player, and one-book novelist, sets off from Wilton, Illinois, in his Honda Odyssey with his 19-year-old son, Ethan. They’re heading to Charleston, South Carolina, where John’s oldest child, conservative Republican bond trader Karen, is getting married. John still pines for his ex-wife, Mary, a lawyer who kicked him out after his one foolish fall into adultery two years earlier. She shares custody of Ethan and is waiting impatiently in Charleston, annoyed that John risks missing the wedding. But given John’s heavy-duty packing and the effort he puts into Ethan’s goodbyes to his favorite places in Wilton, it's obvious that the trip is bigger than John has let on. Traveling with Ethan, who has the emotional and mental capacity of a 3-year-old, is difficult. Managing the boy's mood swings and short attention span requires lots of pit stops, lots of Cracker Barrel meals, and three talking teddy bears. Shortly after John’s middle daughter, Mindy, a successful actress, joins John and Ethan in Tennessee, she tells him that Karen’s called off her wedding. They continue on to Charleston anyway, and there, John’s secret comes out: without telling Mary, he's signed Ethan up for an unexpectedly available spot at a residential treatment center in Maine that he and Mary both liked when they visited the year before. The Nichols women are furious, but they decide to accompany John to Maine to decide what they think of the place themselves. While the miles pile up, John, Mary, and their daughters sort out what's best for Ethan and their own futures.
Like most family road trips, the novel is sometimes rollicking fun, sometimes unbearably annoying; but the trip goes on too long, and the clashes, jokes, and revelations become as repetitious and tedious as the endless pit stops and chain-restaurant meals.