A Bookish Road Trip

If you’re reading this, I’m on a family vacation, a road trip through the American south. It’ll be one of those long road trips that can drive you mad with boredom if you don’t prepare plenty of things to do before hand. For me, that’s always taken the form of a hefty stack of books to read. You know I can always make one of those no problem, but I decided to create a more interesting project this year as well.

I’ll be travelling to several places throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. If I’m planning on going there physically, why not travel there in my books as well? I’ve selected three books, one that takes place in each planned destination, and have them all packed up for the road trip. I encourage you to try something similar if you are going somewhere this summer. Actually, even if you aren’t going anywhere, you could try this too. Create your own road trip without going farther than your local library and /or bookstore.

I didn’t want to make to make this endeavor to gimmicky, so I researched quite a bit first, looking to find quality works set in each destination. After quite a bit of deliberation, I picked these three books.

North Carolina- Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This book takes place during the Civil War. It describes one Confederate soldier’s disillusionment with the war, a general depression that builds up after seeing horror after horror on the battle field and in the hospital. He is injured and then attempts to head back to his home, Cold Mountain.

The copy I got had the movie cover on it, which annoys me, because every time I go to pick it up, I see Nicole Kidman , Renee Zellweger and Jude Law staring at me intensely, with the actual Cold Mountain playing second fiddle to their steely Hollywood drama gazes. Actually, I can’t say I mind young  Jude Law’s steely gaze too much. Maybe I just expected him to be Matthew McConaughey. I guess Matt was to busy making How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days or something, and they thought Jude Law was a Southerner for some reason.

South Carolina- The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This book describes the life of a slave, Hetty “Handful”, living in 19th century Charleston. It explores her relationships with the wealthy Grimke family, her owners, and especially Sarah, the family’s daughter. This historical fiction novel is based off the life of the real Sarah Grimke, noted early feminist and abolitionist. As  young girls, the characters feel the burden of the very different expectations they hold on each other’s shoulders, and we see how those burdens shape their lives.

As far as I know, they don’t invent wings or airplanes or anything. It’s just a metaphor about female empowerment or something, I think. Maybe  you can tell, I haven’t read any of these books yet, so I can only offer a very limited commentary on these guys. I did enjoy The Secret Life of Bees though, and generally respect Kidd as a writer, so I’m excited to find out what happens to Sarah and Handful even if they don’t end up being World War One flying aces.

Georgia- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. This one’s also been turned into a movie, and strangely enough I think this very film answers the question of why Cold Mountain Cast Jude Law as a Confederate Soldier. The even older movie adaptation of this book and allegedly true story has an incredibly young and skinny Jude Law playing a young, volatile handyman with a confederate flag tattooed on his arm. He gets murdered in the first act of the story and doesn’t get much screen time, but his accent must have been convincing enough that people in Hollywood figured that tattoo didn’t wash off after filming.

The book is a good old fashion murder mystery. Did old fancy rich guy really shoot Jude Law in cold blood? Why? It’s set in Savannah Georgia, so there’s a good helping of voodoo stirred in. This plus a number of other murder mystery archetypes makes this book veer a into cliched territory at times, even with it supposedly true story basis. However, an exploration of the murder suspect, racist Jude Law’s sexuality and a trans character that is depicted much more sensitively and humanely than 1990s values would’ve mandated make it an interesting story.

Those are the three books I’ll be on my literary road trip. I’m hoping I’ll enjoy them, and that I’ll enjoy this little project in general. It’s definitely something I’d like to make a tradition; give myself a road trip every summer, even when I can’t actually travel.

What are some book road trips you’d like to take? Let me know in the comments below.

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