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Life in Motion
SEAN MATHEWSON is hoping his drunken decision to hitchhike across the U.S. and Canada with his friend PAUL DAVIS, a college football center, will be the best adventure of his 19 years. Sean is filled with angst and needs to get over his girlfriend dumping him, figure out how to stay in college for more than a semester at a time, and what direction his life should take. Does he finally pick a major and stick to that decision or give up, go to work in a local factory, or even decide to join the military? It’s 1976, the country is still trying to heal from the tumultuous 60’s, Watergate, and other events that have come to greatly affect Sean’s psyche as a young boy and teenager. He watched too many television news programs, read too many magazines, books, and newspapers. The Summer Olympics are being held in Montreal and Paul is sure if they can make it from the college town of Brockport, New York to Big Sur, California and up to Canada, the trip on the Trans-Canada Highway will be a breeze. Each of the diverse characters Sean and Paul meet in the course of their travels have their own reasons for offering rides: needing company to stay awake; curiosity about two hitchhikers; being friendly and offering food, a place to stay, a chance to get stoned; wanting the pair to help rob churches; this is what helps drive the story forward. Sean has moments of fear, anticipation, lust, curiosity, and wonder. At any time he can be anxiety-ridden, introspective, willing to take chances, empathetic, too sensitive, a partier who needs quiet alone time.
Plot/Idea: 6 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: A novel that reads like memoir, Life In Motion chronicles the hitch-hiking travels of a couple of college boys in the mid 1970's. As they make their way from upstate New York to Big Sur, then up the Pacific Coast and finally across Canada, they encounter a variety of people in their travels.

Prose/Style: There are moments of descriptive detail about the landscape that verge on the poetic. But too much of the text is devoted to lists of minutiae: what the narrator put in his backpack, and how many peanut butter sandwiches he had to consume before getting someplace where he could buy an actual hot meal.

Originality: The narrator is inspired by On the Road, but the missing element is the rejection of middle-class values embodied in Kerouac's narrative, and the absence of a Dean Moriarty-like Dionysus figure is keenly felt as one reads on. The haiku interspersed throughout the text are well-crafted and are a nice touch.

Character Development/Execution: The author convincingly re-creates the mindset of a few college athletes of the era. Sean and Paul are preoccupied with drinking, smoking weed and getting lucky with the surprising number of attractive women who are not afraid to invite two guys into their car.

Date Submitted: July 27, 2021

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