She wanted Austin to feel better and come back to school. She missed seeing him on the bus. She missed Mandy too. But she missed Austin more. The first time she ever saw him was at the bus stop, and she thought he was the cutest boy she had ever seen. She thought he was even cuter than Ricky Schroder. Mandy said she needed new glasses.
But Mandy had still given her one of Austin’s school pictures. Naomi had taped it on the face of her Ken doll, and she put on a poolside wedding for Barbie and Austin/Ken. But the photo kept falling off, and Naomi was worried it was going to fall into the pool. So Naomi had taped the photo above the fireplace in her Barbie Dreamhouse.
I picked an uncorrected proof of The Scenic Route at ALA a few weeks ago. I should start by saying that this is not a deep book. It is fluffy fun. It has “rom-com film” written all over it.
That said, it has more depth, more sorrow, than I had anticipated.
The basic premise is this: Naomi Bloom had a crush on her friend Mandy Gittleman’s elder brother Austin in elementary school. When Austin and Mandy’s father died suddenly in a surfing accident and their family moved away, Naomi lost touch with them both. Naomi and Austin reconnect years later at the wedding of mutual friends. At first they bicker. In an argument clearly staged by author Devan Sipher to Set Things Up, the two characters argue over philosophical differences about whether or not wrong turns exist. Naomi and Austin end up hooking up that night.
Then there follow years of missed connections and missed opportunities. I haven’t done the math on how much time the book actually covers, but it has to be at least four years, if not more.
The secondary story follows Austin’s sister Mandy, who starts the book as a doctoral candidate in anthropology studying sexual coercion in primates. She struggles academically and wanders in and out of what I think could be described as dysfunctional codependent romantic relationships, and ends in a crisis that spreads to her brother and many other characters. I can’t say more without giving away crucial plot points.
Author Devan Sipher is apparently also the author of the New York Times “Vows” wedding column, so the world of romance and marriage is clearly not strange to him.
So it’s like I said earlier. This is not Great Literature, but rather a fun and easy read that still provokes some thought about wrong turns, the road not travelled, and the consquences of choices we make. Impulse control – the danger of having too much or not having enough – is also a recurring theme.
Sipher has a gift for clear, visual writing. His descriptions are easy to imagine, such as a funny scene in which Austin, impulsively deciding he ought to follow Naomi back to Miami instead of flying back home to Detroit after their one night together, cannot do so because the door of the airport men’s room stall jams. He tries climbing over, and he tries crawling under, only to get stuck halfway through.
Sipher writes romance without being sappy, speckled with appealing glints of humor like a quick wink across a banquet table. I appreciate any story I can’t predict – I knew that the genre meant a certain end for Austin and Naomi, but the twists and turns along the way took me by surprise.
The Scenic Route is a new release, and for a fun read, I thoroughly recommend it.
Next up: Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero, by William Makepeace Thackeray