Hughes’ coming-of-age novel, set in the early ’80s, follows a young man’s brokenhearted road trip.
After a crushing breakup with his girlfriend, Collette, 20-something Mike Hogan decides to abandon his Hollywood dreams and flee. Pals Declan and Lewis—no fans of the City of Angels—join him, and the trio leave their humdrum jobs to drive across the United States, crashing with old friends along the way, with the eventual goal of flying to London to continue their trek across Europe. But really, the goal is to experience the voyage itself: “All of us looking for something that we couldn’t put into words.” As they set out on the open road, Mike ruminates on his childhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, and his college days in the nearby town of Amherst. He also mourns his dead relationship. Attentive to an ever changing landscape, Mike punctuates his reverie with rock songs from America and Britain: “Music was the soundtrack of my life. Through all of the good times it played in the background hum of my mind…the ups, the downs. How it wrenched at my heart. Was everybody like this?” Eventually making his way back to Lowell, Mike begins to reconsider the ultimate destination of his journey. As a prose stylist, debut author Hughes displays significant talent, detailing multihued scenes on a state-by-state tour (“Driving north now, our day was filled with Caribbean colors, with the waves still assaulting the cliffs below us as we drove on. We listened to more rock and roll music”). However, these moments, though beautifully rendered, rarely seem to move the central plot forward. The result is that the book often feels more like a diary than a novel, and the formidable trek across the continent feels oddly uneventful.
A meandering road novel; full of bright details but never quite manages to go anywhere.