THE WONDER TRAIL by Steve Hely

THE WONDER TRAIL

True Stories from Los Angeles to the End of the World
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author’s travels from Los Angeles to Patagonia.

In this disjointed mashup of travel writing, travel guide, history, and comic memoir, Hely (How I Became a Famous Novelist, 2009, etc.), who has written for 30 Rock, The Office, and the Late Show with David Letterman, chronicles his rushed journey through parts of Mexico and Central and South America on his way down to Patagonia. The author claims his motivation for this adventure was his insatiable hunger for travel. “Every chance I got I went someplace interesting,” he writes. “Cuba, Vietnam, India, Dubai, Texas. None of it fixed whatever wanderlust or curiosity monster was eating me….Now I couldn’t stop thinking about going south to the bottom of the map.” This is an odd, choppy book, and though readers may not doubt the truthfulness of the information, the narrative is a jumble of anecdotes, random facts (“a Panamex ship can carry fifty-something thousand tons of cargo, it can be 965 feet long and 106 feet wide”), brief history lessons, and quick-fire accounts of Hely’s stops in Central and South America. In his brief, episodic chapters (all 102 of them), some less than a page long, the author tries hard to extract every comic or ironic detail that surfaced throughout his journey, but the humor often misses the mark. Though vivid commentary occasionally shines through—the chapters on the Galápagos Islands are particularly insightful—there’s very little connective tissue between chapters. Hely provides a generous list of travel-related titles to consult prior to embarking on such a trip as well as a short appendix of his favorite travel books by female writers; readers may want to skip directly to this final section.

A disappointing book considering the ambitious journey that was undertaken and the potential for engaging a wide range of curious armchair travelers.

Pub Date: June 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-525-95501-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2016




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