Randy Burns is the kind of unfulfilled, middle-aged guy you usually find in sports bars, strip clubs, and Judd Apatow movies. In Ross’ debut novel, Randy takes a worldwide journey to discover himself, find enlightenment, or get laid—which in his world are pretty much the same thing.
As the book opens, Randy is nearing 50 and has just been hit with the loss of a lucrative job and the breakup of his umpteenth relationship. Taking the advice of a self-help travel guru, he shakes up his life by booking himself on a trip to South America, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. But his experience on each continent is about the same: he looks in vain for health clubs, deals with inedible food and insect-ridden hotel rooms, gets bored on sightseeing tours, and unsuccessfully hits on women. The closest thing to an epiphany comes when he finds cheap Jim Beam and a paid companion in Vietnam. Meanwhile he’s pestered by angry emails from his ex-girlfriend Ricki, whom he becomes convinced was the love of his life after all. The author sometimes writes too much like a stand-up comic, going for the easy laugh whenever the story threatens to get emotional. But a few poignant moments slip through, and this story of a flawed character’s midlife crisis becomes an easy one to relate to.
If you’re a lonely guy planning a geographical cure, this book should save you the money and trouble.