The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary: Book Review
It’s release day for Beth O’Leary’s newest book, The Road Trip. I found this book to be a lot more layered and with more complicated and deeply-flawed characters than her previous books. It’s definitely a change from the typical feel-good book, and I think that’s ok. I really enjoyed it all the same.
I received an advanced copy of the book from Berkley | Penguin Random House via NetGalley; all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
SYNOPSISThe Road Trip by Beth O'Leary
Published by Penguin on June 1, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Women, Contemporary
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Buy from your local independent bookstore via IndieBound
Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.
What if the end of the road is just the beginning?
Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry’s enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven’t spoken since.
Today, Dylan’s and Addie’s lives collide again. It’s the day before Cherry’s wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland—he’ll never get there on time by public transport.
So, along with Dylan’s best friend, Addie’s sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart—and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.
MY REVIEW OF THE ROAD TRIP
Beth O’Leary is one of the many authors on my reading lists who gets an automatic “yes, please” when I see that she has a new book out. The Road Trip did not disappoint – but its characters are more deeply flawed and complicated than I was initially expecting. Once I settled into the story, though, I couldn’t put it down.
The story is told via alternating timeline – THEN and NOW – as well as from the standpoints of our new main characters – and exes – Addie and Dylan. Recently graduated from university, they come from different worlds – Addie is to be a school teacher, grew up middle class with a loving family, whereas Dylan comes from wealth and privilege, a dysfunctional family, and he doesn’t know what to do with himself now that he’s graduated from Oxford. (Yes, you can read that last bit with a plummy accent. I did.)
The story starts out entertainingly, and the road trip itself has some really great, laugh-out-loud moments. (How can it not? Just the idea of five grown adults crammed into a mini lends itself to some great situations.) But it’s the flashbacks where the story – and the conflict – unfolds, and this is what gives the story real depth. I thought the book’s structure really lent well to letting the story unfold.
They first meet at a posh villa in Provence – where Addie and her sister have been spending the summer as a caretaker, while Dylan is (initially) the lone guest of what should have been a family trip. Dylan and his friends have grown up with wealth and privilege, and oftentimes come off as immature and spoiled.
Still, there is a lot that readers can relate to, as this is really a story about forgiveness on many levels – family, lovers, and friends. Can we forgive the ones we love? What about those we once loved, and who hurt us – what does it take to forgive them and get back together (or move on happily)? Can we forgive ourselves for our own bad behavior (or choices)?
Complex, damaged characters
Dylan has been let down by his controlling, father (and his weak mother who loves him but won’t stand up to his father.) He’s a complicated person and at some points in the story I struggled to like him, but mostly because he is a bit wishy-washy about what he wants in life. Which, in all honesty, probably just makes him human (albeit, a frustrating one). His wealth has not protected him from a lack of direction or mental health issues.
I think we all have that friend who really toes the line in one way or another, but for whom we will tolerate their bad behavior because we love them – and because they need us, and us them. In this story, this is Marcus. I really struggled to find any redeeming qualities he held – he’s manipulative and selfish, although you can see glimpses of charm – and he does his damndest to drive a wedge in Dylan and Addie. And despite all this, I might have forgiven him by the end of the story.
And refreshingly fun characters
Alternately, Addie’s sister Deb provides a lot of lightness in the book and is an anchor for Addie, and I really adored her. (She might have been my favorite character of them all!) Addie and Deb’s parents are refreshingly average (compared to Dylan’s family) and helps ground Addie’s character all the more.
What I wanted more of
DO Addie and Dylan belong together? (Or, as my question was – is Dylan the one for Addie?) The ending ties things up a little too neatly and I wanted a little…more. (An epilogue would have been perfect.) This couple has been through a lot, and while the story is about forgiveness, it’s also about trust. Does Dylan have his feet? I have more questions. (Maybe I just need someone to discuss the book with.)
There were moments in The Road Trip where my heart broke for both Addie and Dylan, and others were I laughed out loud. (And a lot of moments where I really wanted to light Marcus up.)
While this might not be what I was initially expecting from the author based on earlier books, once I dropped my expectations and settled in, I really enjoyed the ride. The Road Trip is a story of forgiveness, and one with both laughter and pain and a whole lot of emotions. I’m giving it a solid four stars.
TL/DR WRAP UP: THE ROAD TRIP
Premise: Two sisters begin a road trip to a friend’s wedding when one of their exes (and his best friend) runs into them – literally, with their car – on the way to the same wedding. They end up riding to the wedding in what may be the most disastrous road trip ever taken and along the way, the former couple is forced to confront their past. Told in a combination of alternating viewpoints and present day/flashbacks, this story veers between funny and charming to raw and heartbreaking.
Perfect for: fans of second-chance romance stories, lovers of Brit fiction,
Or, might want to take a pass: readers looking for an all-around feel-good novel
Genre(s): women’s literature, fiction
Trigger/content warning: drug/alcohol abuse, sexual assault, depression, homophobia