Katie's Reviews > The Only Road North: 9,000 Miles of Dirt and Dreams

The Only Road North by Erik Mirandette
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's review
Jul 12, 14

bookshelves: africa, male-author, non-fiction
Read in February, 2009

I had issues with this book from the start. It's difficult to write this review because I don't want to be overly critical. The author obviously had a very difficult journey, and suffered a horrible loss. I checked the book out of the library because I liked its cover. Usually, I have found that I actually can judge a book by its cover, but I guess there is some truth to the old adage.

My problem with the book stemmed from my own expectations of what I wanted it to be. The book follows the journey of the author and three of his friends from South Africa to Egypt on their dirt bikes. The summary on the back of the book led me to believe that maybe I would get a small glimpse into the social and political situation of each of the countries they travelled through. I slowly realized the book was actually about the author's adventures with his buddies, the death of his brother, and his spiritual growth as a result of this. This is all fine, it just wasn't what I was looking for.

At the very beginning of the book, the author was doing humanitarian work on the border of Morocco and Spain. I was really fascinated by the situation of refugees living on the border and was hoping for a more thorough description of this situation. However, I never got that information, or any information about Africa. The book continually centered around the author and seemed very self-indulgent.

I'm not sure if their adventure was supposed to have some sort of humanitarian point, but to me it seemed to be less of a humanitarian mission and more of a frat boy adventure. I was continually frustrated with the fact that the author wrote so little about the people he met on his journey and so much about his dirt bike. If you are going to write a three page description about a volleyball game you play with your friends, it would be nice to hear a little more than a few sentences about the Rwandan genocide. Or when the author discusses how much everyone he meets loves the dirt bikes they ride, and then stresses out about how in the world they are going to ship them back to the United States. The logical conclusion to me would be to leave your bikes there. I was suprised that wasn't the conclusion reached. I just found a lot of his descriptions of the journey to be arrogant and out of touch.

Again, it is hard to write this because I'm sure the fact that the author's brother was killed at the end of the journey made him most interested in reflecting on his time with his brother, and not on other elements of his journey. Maybe if there wasn't such a tragic ending the the journey the author would have reflected more on these other elements and I would have found the book more enjoyable.


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