Retro Friday: Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

I read Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin along with good friends Janice and Holly. We all finished reading the book a couple of weeks ago but haven’t gotten around to writing reviews of it until now. I’m going to link to their Retro Friday reviews as soon as they’re up. I always enjoy doing readalongs because it’s fun to discuss details about the book with friends who are reading it at the same time. Although we haven’t been lucky with some of our other readalong choices before, we all enjoyed reading this one. Thanks again to Michelle for passing along her copy.

Here’s the summary from Karen Siplin’s website:

Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin book coverAfter one too many run-ins with irate A-List celebrities and their bodyguards on the streets of Los Angeles, paparazza Jimi Anne Hamilton has decided to throw in the towel. But when she planned to ride her luxury BMW motorcycle from California to New York, she didn’t count on having her cross-country adventure interrupted by motorcycle thief. After the brutal attack, which sees both her motorcycle and camera equipment stolen, she finds herself left with only her helmet, a few clothes, and a bag of money she swiped from her attacker. Disillusioned and hurt, Jimi chooses to recuperate in a nearby town where she meets Caleb Atwood, a local contractor fighting his own demons. Jimi and Caleb make a mismatched pair: black and white, highbrow and low. But in Caleb, Jimi believes she has found someone who is as much of an outsider as she feels.

This is the first time I’ve read a novel with a paparazza as a main character. I found it fascinating that Jimi loves her job, not because of the money, but because of the thrill that she gets out of the chase. She’s like a private investigator – hiding in Dumpsters or up in trees just to get the perfect shot. Paparazzi are not always portrayed as nice people, you know? So it’s good to get a different kind of perspective, it felt like Jimi justified her reasons for doing what she does throughout the course of the book. When she gets tired of it all, she plans a cross-country trip on her motorcycle on the way to visit her brother. She wanted to see how beautiful the countryside in America is but doesn’t expect to get robbed along the way. I was surprised by how big an issue racism is in this novel. Granted, most of it is set in rural America but I had no idea that it was still a problem. I even checked the publication date – 2008 – which is fairly recent. I have a feeling I’ll remember this book if I ever get the idea that it would be nice to go on a road trip to explore rural America (hint: probably not a good idea when you’re a minority).

While Caleb isn’t exactly warm and welcoming, he’s a lot friendlier than other people in his town and I liked that about him. Felt like he was seeing Jimi for who she really is, instead of just looking at the color of her skin. I liked how both of them warily circled each other in spite of their attraction. It took time for them to get to know each other before they acted on what they were feeling. Both Caleb and Jimi have problems and neither was looking for a relationship when they first met each other. These two have a quiet kind of love story, focusing on how they’re both getting over the difficulties in their lives and how they’re reluctantly falling for each other. One of the scenes that stood out to me was when Jimi discovered that Caleb loves motorcycles just as much as she does and they go for a motorcycle ride on Whiskey Road. Note to self: ride a motorcycle someday. Whiskey Road is an under-the-radar novel that I’ll recommend to readers who like slow burn, complicated romances. I think I got the original recommendation for this from Angie and I don’t think I would have found out about it if not for her review. Feel free to recommend other titles that you think have the same feel as this one.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
Angieville