Roastbeef’s Promise

To hear him tell it, in this rollicking account of the most disaster-prone road trip ever, if it weren’t for bad luck, poor young Jim “Roastbeef” Hume would have had no luck at all. He has embarked on a marathon journey through all 48 continental US states, in obedience to his adoptive father’s deathbed wish to scatter his ashes in every one of them. With not very much in his pocket, or a particular itinerary in mind, he drops out of college and sets out bravely, with 3/5ths of his father’s ashes in a silver urn that looks like a tea-pot without the spout (this is a compromise, as two of his sibs agreed with his plan, and the other two wanted a more conventional solution.) He starts out in his own car, which barely lasts through the first couple of states, thereafter advancing in fits and starts via other cars, hitchhiking, biking, moped, and intercity bus, and one hysterically comic interlude of hopping rail-cars under the guidance of an old man with emphysema who recalls the most fun he ever had in his life, riding the rails as a hobo … and who wishes to recapture some of that, if Jim will only carry along the oxygen bottle that he is tethered to. The scene where Jim must throw the oxygen bottle into a moving rail-car and beans a pig with it is laugh-out-loud, tears-down- your-face funny. In between time, in the mean time, he encounters a wonderfully assorted collection of characters – small town law enforcement, frat boys and sorority girls, Canadian dentists on a road trip disguised as bad-ass bikers, a lesbian who hires him to pretend to be her boyfriend for the duration of a family reunion, a young Marine and his very pregnant bride to be who are going to Los Vegas to be married by a Boy George look-alike, a conniving young man who gets his fun crashing wedding receptions, and a philosopher/launderette attendant … and many, many more. Jim winds up being arrested mistakenly in a drug bust, working in a family souvenir shop at Mount Rushmore, is dragged off to Tijuana by his father’s army buddy, AKA Uncle Spud and finds Elvis’ toenail-clipping in the deep shag rug in a room at Graceland. The overall tone is wry, deadpan and very, very dry – a Candide with more self-awareness. The narrator is an engaging character; as noted, he has consistently awful luck, but bounces back with verve and creativity, never loosing sight of his mission and ready to try anything once, or for as long as it will take to get him back on the road. Some of the situations are comic set-pieces, which have turned up before, but they are well-told here … and anyone who has been on a long road trip across the United States – by any means – will recognize not only the places, but the assortment of people inhabiting them. In several ways, this book reminded me of Bill Bryson’s Lost Continent – much the same dry, comic tone, but with a much sweeter understanding of and liking for people. Roastbeef’s Promise is available through Amazon.com and other retail book outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and contributes to the on-line literary magazine, TheDeepening. Her current book project, “The Adelsverein Trilogy” is also available at Amazon.com and selected local outlets. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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