I decided to take a break from my Reading Challenge books, and pick up a copy of Driving Sideways, the first published novel of my bloggy friend, Jess Riley. I bought the book on Tuesday, and finished it on Saturday night. It was the kind of story that sucked me right in, and had me thinking about how I wished I were reading it while I was doing other things, like working, or being at a boring party on Saturday, that kind of thing. This is a relief, because I have to say, I was a little bit worried…what if I hated it? I’ve never reviewed a book by someone that I sorta know before!
Driving Sideways is the story of Leigh Fielding, a 28-year old whose life has been put on hold by kidney disease. She’s recently received a transplant, and now feels healthy enough, and brave enough, to leave Wisconsin on a road trip to tie up some loose ends. Specifically, she wants to reconnect with an ex-boyfriend, to see if what was once there might still be…hint, it is, but it’s not good stuff. As Chrissy mentioned on her blog recently, they are exes for a reason. She wants to meet the family of her kidney donor, to show her appreciation for the gift that has been given to her. And she wants to see her mother, who walked out on the family when Leigh was 5. Her journey takes some quirky twists and turns, starting out with being hijacked by a 17-year old gun toting girl by the name of Denise. Denise, funnily enough, is the name given to Leigh by a psychic, as the name of her guardian angel.
“Well, everything happens for a reason.”
“Does it?” I ask. I remember Denise’s excitement about something as cluttery-kitschy as Wall Drug, her occasional goofiness. I’ll miss that, I think. Was that the read Denise or simply an act? Will this just be an anecdote I relate over and over at parties? A riddle I’ll never solve? Probably. I know myself. I obsess over things. I once spent three days trying to remember that it was Rosalind Russel whom my great-aunt had once served at a restaurant in Chicago. Maybe the whole thing will come to mean about as much to me as my former coworkers at Kohl’s. I see their shapes in my mind, but no longer their names or faces. Their time in my life was fleeting and random, as I was to them. But if nothing is random – if, as Jillian says, there’s a reason for everything – then there’s a reason for Denise. It just might take me awhile to figure it out.
But then again, that might be a load of crap.
I enjoyed the time I spent with Leigh and her friends. Watching as she gained more confidence in herself and her emotional abilities. Laughing at her quirky sense of humor. Feeling her pain when things didn’t go the way that she had hoped. I would say that time spent with Driving Sideways is time well spent. Though the back of the book lied, and there was no greatest hits of Hall and Oats to be found (mentioned that one of the characters liked them, but not really a part of the story). And I could have done without the visual of the white sweatshirt. Blech. But Leigh has her flaws, as do we all, which is what made me like her, and made me root for her to come through everything OK, and be able to live her life on her own terms.