REVIEW: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.
What if the end of the road is just the beginning?
Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry’s enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven’t spoken since.
Today, Dylan’s and Addie’s lives collide again. It’s the day before Cherry’s wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland—he’ll never get there on time by public transport.
So, along with Dylan’s best friend, Addie’s sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart—and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.
CW/TW – depression, addiction, stalking, attempted sexual assault
Dear Ms. O’Leary,
After hearing all about the first two books, I was excited to finally try one of your novels. Several of our other reviewers had great things to say about them and this blurb looked enticing. Though I thought I was going to get nothing but rom-com, the story is actually an examination of why insta-love is an iffy way to start a relationship, toxic friendships all crossed with a road trip from hell, more than a bit of introspection and laced with comedic touches.
Via the dual timeline, the love and loss suffered by very posh Dylan and not-posh Addie is told. The two meet one lovely summer in Provence while Addie (and sometimes her sister, Deb) is looking after her uni roommate’s parents’ estate. Dylan appears, the two begin to spend time together and a week later, love is in the air. But when Dylan’s best friend (the slightly unhinged) Marcus arrives along with several of their other very posh buddies, Addie begins to worry that she’s not really in his social class. How can romantic, poetry writing, Oxford educated Dylan (who actually understands “The Fairy Queen”) truly love someone like average, school teacher-to-be Addie who was mainly trying on a persona over the summer?
Time passed, love flourished but dark storm clouds threatened their epic romance. Somehow it all came crashing down so badly that they haven’t spoken in almost two years. Then fate thrust them back together – along with a motley crew of people who sorta know what happened – on bank holiday packed roads as they journeyed to a wedding. Will the whole truth finally emerge, will they make it on time to the wedding, and is there a chance that somehow things can be made right again?
There is so much more to this story than romance or love. There are class differences, self discovery, deep reflection, toxic parent/child relationships, wonderful parent/child relationships, an absolute no-fucks given sibling, homophobia, homophila, breast pumps, google mapping, traffic jams, idyllic French countryside frolicking, gap year wandering, a crammed motel room, revelations, a stalker, a castle, and country music.
Romance and laughter might get the book started but it’s soon obvious that whatever happened was dark, painful, and has scarred Addie and Dylan. The lead up is so easy and unobtrusive that this is a rare time that I was not rolling my eyes as yet another heavy hint gets dropped per chapter and I realize from early on what happened. No, this is subtle and shows how even the greatest and deepest love sometimes has to weather storms and people who think they know best and that not all people who are deeply in love can communicate worth a damn. We must see what brought Addie and Dylan together in order to understand how and why the breakup was as painful as it was. The revelation, when it arrives, is gut punching in many ways. The insights about this that arrive later are ones that needed time, therapy, and effort to be reached.
Along the way to the wedding in Scotland, Dylan begins composing a poem with the line “Unchanged but changed” which perfectly describes both he and Addie. This is something I was delighted to see taken out of the box, shaken to get the wrinkles out, then discussed. Dylan and Addie immediately realize that the feelings are still there – both the good and the bad. They remember little things they shared and often find themselves glancing at the other when something amuses or annoys them. They’re still sympatico. And yet … some things are different. Some things have changed and before any future plans are made, these are talked about. Therapy is talked about and it isn’t just Dylan and Addie who have gotten it. Still, thinking back, there were so many times when Dylan irritated me – the way he was led by everyone he knew and how so many times he wouldn’t stick up for Addie. She is the one who makes the most accommodations and compromises to keep their relationship going, IMO.
And yet, I was giggling and laughing at the bizarre assortment of people crammed in that mini and the snarky ways, at times, they interact. Kevin the Truck Driver was a great addition to the crew and the wedding is one for the ages. At times however, the actions of some of the characters made me want to shake them. Pill popping, massive drinking, out of control partying and other antics of the posh 1% are things I don’t like and don’t want to try and understand. Get over your privileged selves. By the current section, Dylan has apparently discovered self control and economizing when his rich parents cut off his access to the cash.
This is not a light and fluffy book as some characters are dark and or troubled. They are well written characters but not all ones whom people will like or cheer for. There are toxic relationships some of which I didn’t want to see continued but then, life is full of this. At one point, Dylan does finally offer a bit of insight into why he continues to hang out with one person and given how his father has always treated him, it makes sense. Other relationships are delightful such as Addie and her take-no-prisoners sister Deb and there’s one I didn’t expect involving another female friend of Dylan’s. The alternate POVs chapters assure that we, if not the other MC, know what is going on but at times Dylan and Addie’s voices read as “same same” to me making me have to double check who was relating the chapter.
Some of the self discovery steps made were baby ones and there is still growth and maturity to be attained. But things are hopeful and looking up. I do like that the causes and effects of some of the characters’ actions are delved into. Kudos that
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