“As long as your determination is at least as long as the road you travel, you will definitely reach your destination!” ~ Mehmet Murat İldan
As different as they may seem, Rye Bellamy and Marcus Townsend, from 'Taking the Long Way' by Max MacGowan, have one very important thing in common. They both want to get out of town. Rye is aging out of his profession. He's still very handsome and fit, but he's not a “sweet young thing” anymore. As a sex worker, that's the kiss of death. Marcus, a retired vet, is functionally blind and resentful of being given too much help. Marcus needs to get across country to a doctor who might be able to help him. He has an old truck but needs a driver, which provides Rye with the perfect excuse to “get outta Dodge”.
There's an attraction between Rye and Marcus that neither knows what to do about. Also, there's a level of respect for each other from the first time they meet. Marcus appreciates Rye because he doesn't patronize him and Rye appreciates Marcus's non-judgmental attitude toward his profession. Rye is a great caregiver, quickly discerning when Marcus needs help and expert at finding a way to do so without it being obvious, thereby preserving Marcus's dignity, while keeping him safe at the same time. Rye is super vigilant, sensing danger almost before it happens. He's had to develop this acuity in his job as a sex worker in order to keep himself out of danger; it's still an excellent skill to have.
Knowing Rye has never traveled, Marcus is determined to take Rye places he's never been before. Marcus experiences a great deal of pleasure in seeing them through Rye's eyes. Rye's penchant for details comes in handy during their tour as well. They have a truly remarkable time together; some experiences are fantastic, others boring or dangerous. They develop a closeness neither has ever had with anyone else. Yet, they both hesitate to let each other know how they feel. Rye is happy during the trip and contemplates doing something with his life other than being a hustler, but Rye doesn't know what that would be so he decides to stay with what he knows. Rye has a connection where they are going and is planning on working for her. Marcus refuses to give up on the possibility that the new doctor will be able to help him see again, so he has no plans for a future until after he sees the doctor. Toward the end of their journey, Marcus realizes he's in love with Rye and wants to stay with him. He asks Rye but is turned down. When they arrive, Rye gets out of the car and walks away, leaving Marcus brokenhearted.
At first glance, this book seems like it is going to be uncomplicated; Marcus needs a ride and Rye can drive for him. But it's so much more than that. I became very emotionally involved in their struggles and it was difficult to watch them suffer, knowing it could be better if only they would embrace their feelings. One of the things I liked about this story was that it wasn't always predictable. Also, it definitely didn't end the way I thought it would. If you enjoy reading character-driven stories with strong characters on personal journeys, unforeseeable events, road trips, and a happy ending, you may appreciate this book. Thanks, Max, for a thoroughly enjoyable journey.