Thursday, June 17, 2010

Literary Bite: Country Driving

I’m not a quitter. But, in the case of books (on the very rare occasion) I am. There are just too many good books out there waiting for me to read! I have a whole stack! And a few lists! So why waste my time with a book that’s not good?

There are times that I have stuck with a bad book out of stubbornness, seeing it through to the end, and hoping for it to get better. And sometimes books do. Sometimes I start a book and dislike it, only to learn to love it by the end. But sometimes the book is just bad all the way through. You never know.

So here I am, admitting it to the world (or my blog readers…same difference). I quit Country Driving by Peter Hestler. (I may go back to it…but right now I need to finish my book club book asap – so I feel kinda sorta justified in quitting this one.)

I was so disappointed! I absolutely loved Hestler’s first book, River Town, and all the elements were present for Country Driving to be equally good…but somehow it wasn’t. It was boring. Really boring. How can an adventure driving along the Great Wall of China be boring you may wonder? I don’t know…but it is! Maybe because the first section of the book (I only made it to page 143 out of about 400) is very non-fiction. I just can’t bring myself to care about the auto industry in China…I just can’t.

To be fair, the book is not entirely uninteresting. Learning about the role cars and mobility play in Chinese culture can be interesting, and their licensing process is absolutely horrifying! LLC loved it, but her China-obsession makes her testimony completely unreliable to the non-China-obsessed. The book is in 3 parts, and like I said I just finished the first part…maybe 2 and 3 will be better.

So overall, Country Driving = meh, don’t bother. Stick to Hestler’s first book. And my mama is currently enjoying his second book, Oracle Bones, so maybe Country Driving is just an anomaly in the usual Hestler-awesomeness...let's hope so!

Need a second opinion? Check out this review. And this one from the Washington Post.

Maybe I'm crazy...other people seem to like it...

And here's an article Hestler wrote about driving in China for the New Yorker