Book Review: Wish You Were Here by Sheridan Jobbins
After suffering a break up of some kind (whether it be a death or divorce/separation), a character going off on an overseas trip to ‘find her/himself’ has become a bit of a cliche for movies, books etc. And this is the general premise of Wish You Were Here. However, in this case, don’t let it put you off reading Sheridan Jobbins’s memoir.
Jumping in a car and driving off into the unknown without any real plan of where to stay or what to do on the way is such a romantic dream for many, including me. But as there’s no way I could afford such a trip (that whole meme about wanting to travel but only affording to get to the bottom of the stairs could have been written by me), so I’m pleased to have hitched a ride with Sheridan in Betty’s passenger seat.
Sheridan has found out her husband is cheating on her, and he’s frankly unrepentant, so… road trip!
Sheridan buys a car (the aforementioned Betty, a name Jobbins uses so much throughout the book that I can’t really remember what make or model Betty was, only that she is big, noisy, very American and the wet dream of most of the males mentioned in the book) and sets off on a cross country trip through America, with a flight to England added in for extra spice.
The best thing about the book is its humour. I laughed so many times. I especially liked the insights into cultural differences. One that stuck with me (because I really notice it an awful lot in the online world) is that an Australian’s normal way is to make jokes and try and be funny, and it’s difficult to tell when they’re being serious, and that Americans are the opposite – that is, their normal state is serious and they need to work hard at joking (might explain why their comedy shows always need 40 writers too!).
Yes, Sheridan makes fun of the Americans on her trip quite often, but she evens it out by giving us several scenes where people she has only just met in the country carry out charitable acts without asking for any reward or payment in return whatsoever.
Sometimes the trip is downright frightening: so many guns (and even though I don’t think it’s ever specified, I get the sense this book is set about 15-20 years ago, so the thought of the guns in America now, in 2017, freaks me out completely), religious zealots, hotels with creepy dolls… But then Jobbins will again throw in one of those touching scenes that will warm your heart and restore your faith and you’ll forget about fretting and travel warnings.
Although a memoir, the book reads like a novel and I quite liked that about it. If I had a complaint, it would be that I sometimes got confused about the minor characters Sheridan knows/is related to/stays with. I didn’t really know who was who on occasion, and found I didn’t really care.
Too, I’m almost loath to admit (especially considering the dedication/author’s notes etc), that I found the romantic aspect of the book slowed down its pace. I thought Wish You Were Here rolled along much quicker in the first half, and it became a little bogged down with camping and tantrums and who was saying ‘I love you’ to whom. I will say, however, that there is an endgame with the romantic plotline. Sheridan comes through her ordeal (for wont of a better word) a better person who can move on and see her future and again, this was quite touching, in amongst the humour.
A strong 4/5