Monday, June 17, 2024

What I'm Reading This Week (June 17, 2024)


If the weather holds steady this week, and the potential tropical storm that seems to be developing somewhere around Guatemala doesn't come as far north as the Gulf Coast, I'll be shifting into road trip mode on Saturday morning (the 22nd). That in mind, I'm not sure how much reading I'll be doing, or how much posting, if any. It all depends on the availability of trustworthy wifi connections in the evenings - and how much energy is left in my tank at the end of each day. 

That said, I did finish three books last week (Butterfield 8 by John O'Hara, James by Purcival Everett, and Deliverance by James Dickey), and I have two others in progress to start the new week with (Look for Me There by Luke Russert and The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh). As usual, I managed to stray considerably from last week's plan, this time by reading Deliverance sooner than I'd anticipated and by adding The Big Door Prize, a book I had forgotten I even owned before unexpectedly coming across it again one afternoon.

Whether it deserves it or not, Deliverance holds classic status in my mind. James Dickey, a well respected poet, published the novel in 1971 and it was made into a smash hit movie in 1972 starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beaty, and Ronny Cox. It was quite a shocking story for its time, especially when it came to homosexual predatory sexual behavior and preempting violence by killing another before they could harm others. I read the book early on, but that was over fifty years ago so I wanted to see if it is as good as I remembered it to be. It is.

I very seldom go into "Dollar Stores," but a few weeks ago I popped into one to pick up a small tube of super glue and stumbled upon a shelf with few books on sale for a dollar. The Big Door Prize was the only one that sounded remotely good to me, so I ended up spending a whopping $2, plus tax, on the store visit. It's all about a little town in Louisiana whose grocery store adds a machine charging $2 to sample and interpret the customer's DNA sample to "tell you your life's destiny" and what you are capable of achieving. Now I see that someone turned it into a TV series.

I haven't yet figured out exactly who Luke Russert is. I came into the book with a lot of built-in respect for Luke based simply on how much I admire his father. And during the early chapters, during which Luke recounted the horrible experience of so unexpectedly losing Tim, my respect only increased. But then Luke seemed to go a little overboard on his idea to regroup personally by traveling around the world. Even his mother was concerned about him. Now, I see indications in the chapters that Luke is beginning to figure out that he has an unhealthy addiction to social media, but I'm still unsure whether some of what he is saying is self-directed sarcasm or if I'm giving him more credit than he deserves. Can't wait to find out which it is.

Because I'll be on the road for most of two weeks beginning June 22, I'm hesitant to even guess whether I'll get to any new books the rest of the month or in early July. At the very least, I'll probably keep it to relatively light reading choices, so those dark books I mentioned last week are going to have to wait a bit longer. I'm considering these as carry-alongs for the trip:
A book about a road trip

Another road trip book

I'll also be throwing the latest Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in the suitcase in case I only have time to read a few short stories. 

You guys have a great week. It's definitely going to be a busy few days around here while we pack up all the "essentials" for the trip (in my case, that's books; in my grandson's that means music to drive by). 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

James - Purcival Everett


 Purcival Everett's James begins as a reimagining of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, told this time through the eyes of the man Huck loves to torment with his practical jokes, Miss Watson's slave Jim. For about half the book, that's exactly what James delivers as readers find themselves immersed in the familiar world created by Twain in his classic novel. That's all interesting and kind of fun, but then Everett abandon's Twain's plotting and completely changes the tone and nature of James. And abandoning what has always seemed to me to be the much weaker half of Twain's novel, along with Twain's farcical tone, and suddenly shifting to a serious and more realistic tone to tell the rest of Jim's story works brilliantly. 

Right from the first page, James promises to be fun, especially for those readers familiar with the Twain novel. 

"Those little bastards were hiding out there, in the tall grass...Those white boys, Huck and Tom, watched me. They were always playing some kind of pretending game where I was either a villain or prey, but certainly their toy...It always pays to give white folks what they want, so I stepped into the yard and called out into the night."

 Jim, who calls himself James and holds night classes to teach the slave children how to speak the Black dialect that white people expect to hear them speak, is almost exactly the opposite of what Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn think he is. Jim, a self-taught reader and philosopher, is every bit as brilliant as the boys believe he is stupid and childlike. That's the plan - and it works really well for Jim and his family right up until the moment that Jim learns he is about to be separated from his wife and daughter by being sold separately to a new owner.

Then all bets are off - and the novel really takes off.

James becomes much darker in tone - and in content - as Jim desperately tries to survive on the run long enough to rescue his wife and daughter from bondage at least long enough for them to make a northward run for freedom together. Jim, with some help from Huck when he needs it most, will still have to risk everything if he is to succeed in his quest to free himself and his family for good. This half of the book also features a "Big Reveal" that although not entirely unexpected at the point it finally arrives, will still delight most readers with its audacity.

James is likely to go down as one of the better known books coming out of 2024, and it will probably be considered for more than one literary prize along the way. I do think it will read differently for readers familiar with Twain's plotting in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn than for those who have perhaps not read Twain since they were children. James reminds me a little of Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, but I will be surprised if it attains quite the same level of success.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Butterfield 8 - John O'Hara


John O'Hara's Butterfield 8 might be a Depression Era novel, but it's not what most readers expect from a novel set in that period. Rather than focusing on the hopelessness of job loss, forced migration, starving families, etc. that so many other novels feature, O'Hara chose to see the Great Depression through the eyes a segment of society so wealthy that life went on for them and their friends largely as it  had before the Depression- despite the pain and suffering all around them. 

The book's main character is Gloria Wandrous, a jaded young woman who is determined to squeeze the most pleasure possible out of every day that she lives. Her face is so well known on the New York City speakeasy circuit by now that she has easy access to the booze inside them and to the rich men who frequent them. If she were honest with herself, Gloria would admit that these men see her as little more than a high-priced call girl, but Gloria Wandrous is seldom so honest with herself. Instead, she considers herself to be more of a consumer than a victim in the relationships she has with the men she meets around town. 

And why not? 

When we first meet Gloria, she is alone in a strange man's apartment after having spent the night with him there while his family is out of the city. After she realizes that her evening dress has been ripped beyond repair in the man's enthusiasm of the previous evening, and that she has nothing else to wear home, Gloria sees that he left her an apologetic note along with sixty dollars to buy a replacement dress (the equivalent of over $1,200 in 2024). That's all fine, but Gloria still has nothing to wear on her way home so she casually covers herself in a $5,000 mink coat belonging to the man's wife before leaving the apartment (the equivalent of  about $103,000 today). It's easy to see why Gloria sees herself as the "consumer" in the transaction.

That's the world Gloria and her lover, Weston Liggett, live in - and they are surrounded by people just like them. Sure, everyone knows someone who has been ruined by the Depression, and they all know the stories about those among them who have decided to take their own lives as a result. But for them, personally, a little belt-tightening is about all that's been required. The more callous among them have even benefitted from buying up the assets of former friends and associates for pennies on the dollar.

But Gloria, by the simple act of stealing one very valuable fur coat, may have just opened a can of worms with the potential to change all of that for her and those closest to her - friend and foe, alike. 

Butterfield 8 is an eyes-wide-open look at wealthy New Yorkers of the day. It strikes me as being every bit as bleak and despairing in its own way as novels that focus on the plight of working class families of the same time period. With one or two exceptions, there's just not a lot to like or respect about Gloria and her hedonistic friends. She might begin as more sympathetic a character than not, but will soon enough reveal her true nature in a racist rant directed at her mother's Black maid. Is Liggett the victim of an undeserved theft, or just a despicable man who deserves exactly what he gets? 

O'Hara's novel had to be much more shocking when published in 1935 than it is today. In it, O'Hara frankly addresses things like lesbianism, abortion, venereal disease, bodily functions, incest, rape, and blatant racism. He refuses to pull his punches. But reading it almost ninety years after its publication through more jaded eyes lessens its impact, and makes it near impossible to be much surprised by anything in it. In one sense, Butterfield 8 has morphed into well written historical fiction, and that's why it still has plenty to say today.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Harbour Street - Ann Cleeves


(Not the cover on copy I read, but I much prefer this one.)

Harbour Street is book number six in Ann Cleeves's Vera Stanhope series, and it's a good one. Cleeves sometimes has a tendency to keep her main character behind the curtain until she's fully set up all the side characters and the mystery to be solved (even to approaching the 75-100 page-mark sometimes) but that's not the case with Harbour Street.

The first sentence of the novel is "Joe pushed through the crowd." As in Joe Ashworth, Vera's favorite detective, and Vera herself shows up on page 13 this way:

"Outside there was an enormous woman. She wore a shapeless anorak over a tweeded skirt. A wide face and small brown eyes. Her hair was covered by the anorak hood. On her feet, wellingtons. Her hair and her body were covered in snow...The abominable snow-woman..."

That rather comedic introduction of Vera is so dead-on that series fan will recognize the lonely detective long before Vera opens her mouth to introduce herself. And for me, this series is all about Vera and her evolving relationship with Joe, so this all made for a promising beginning to Harbour Street.

It's the Chrismas season, and Joe and his daughter are in Newcastle doing some relatively last-minute shopping when they notice that one of their fellow passengers has not gotten off the train with everyone else. For good reason. As it turns out, she's been stabbed to death.

Vera feels a little guilty about being so excited to have something interesting to take her mind off the season and her separateness, but soon she and Joe are trying to find out why anyone would have wanted to kill what seems to have been such a well thought of elderly woman like Margaret. Things begin to get complicated when a second woman is found dead in the little Harbour Street community because Vera is convinced from the beginning that the two murders have to be connected. She is not one to believe in coincidences like two murders happening so close together by sheer chance in a neighborhood as small as this one. And, of course, she's right about that.

So she and her crew start digging. And what they discover is going to take some real effort on everyone's part if any of them are going to be home on Christmas day. 

Harbour Street is intertwined with multiple suspects who come and go, and come again, as the investigation unfolds. Longtime fans of the series will already know this, but let me emphasize it for those who may be reading Ann Cleeves for the first time: keep a notepad handy. Jot down the names of side characters and how they relate to one another. Pay particular attention to flashbacks and how they seem to relate to the present day. If you do those things, you will fully appreciate just how intricately plotted an Ann Cleeves mystery always is. And although I've never managed to do it, you will have a good/fair shot at figuring out who the culprit is even before Vera figures it out for herself.

As usual, I enjoyed visiting Vera Stanhope and Joe Ashworth again, and look forward now to reading the few Vera Stanhope books I'm still holding in reserve. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

What I'm Reading This Week (June 10, 2024)


As mentioned in an earlier post, I finally broke down and decided to buy a copy of Percival Everett's James last week. It seemed like I had been waiting forever to get a copy from the library, so once I heard that James might be nominated for the 2024 Booker Prize I decided to go ahead and buy a copy despite my complete lack of bookshelf space. And at about 120 pages into it,  I'm glad I bought it. I finished two books last week (The Humans by Matt Haig and Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves) and I'm about to finish John Ohara's 1935 novel Butterfield 8. So coming into this new week, I plan to finish that one, continue reading James, and make more progress on Look for Me There by Luke Russert. I first came across the Luke Russert book over on Kathy's Reading Matters blog when I spotted this review there. If you want to know more about this one, Kathy's review is a great place to start. 

Luke Russert's father, Tim Russert, was one of the last journalists I trusted to tell me the truth consistently. I was shocked the day that the 58-year old Russert so suddenly died of a heart attack, and I still remember my feeling that a good man had been snatched from the world. I can only imagine how is son felt. Luke's memoir as it's subtitle says is about grieving his father and finding himself. In order to do that, Luke walked away from a news job that confined him to Washington D.C. and began to explore the world - and himself.

I'm almost done with Butterfield 8 now, and I'm still trying to figure out what I think of the novel's main character, Gloria. This is not an exceptionally long novel, but Gloria has been explored so deeply that my opinion of her has run the gamut, everything from admiration of her spirit to disgust at the deeply-seated racism she doesn't even try to hide when she's frustrated or angry at herself. I haven't read very much John O'Hara, so I don't have anything to compare it with, but this snapshot of the Great Depression and how so many wealthy people went on as usual is memorable.

I re-read Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a few weeks ago to prepare myself for James. As you probably know, this Percival Everett novel is a retelling of Twain's novel through Jim's eyes (or as he thinks of himself, James). The differences between the two viewpoints are sometimes subtle, but often, especially at first, can be quite jarring. James is quick to point out that he and all the other slaves he knows are basically playing a game of survival with the white people they deal with every day...act dumber than you are and present yourself exactly as whites expect you to be. Even then, James and Huck manage to create a real friendship for themselves, something that surprises both of them.

I'll likely be beginning at least two new ones this week that probably will come from this bunch (unless another surprise book comes from nowhere to haul me in):


This last one will be a little hard to stomach if I do get around to it this week. It's not something I would normally read, but I'm intrigued by the opportunity to get inside the head of someone as evil as this woman must have been. I am watching Peacock's series The Tattooist of Auschwitz right now (and have read the novel), but I'm as bewildered as ever by the notion that that kind of thing is even possible. Maybe Mistress of Life and Death has some answers to that question.

I'm also hoping for another big surprise or two to pop up because that often ends up being the best part of my reading week.

(I'm actually writing this early on Sunday afternoon as I prepare to drive the 90 miles to College Station for game two of the Super Regional baseball series between Oregon and Texas A&M. Only the top 16 teams in the country get this far, and if A&M wins today they will be among the eight teams going to Omaha for the 2024 College World Series. I'm excited because tickets to this series are really, really tough to get but my granddaughter gifted me with a pair that she got from the school. I'm, of course, pulling for a win but if A&M loses this one, there will be a winner-take-all game tomorrow night. the time you read this, I'll either be super-excited or extremely nervous. I'm glad I don't know which it turned out to be.)

Enjoy the week, everyone. 

Friday, June 07, 2024

Remarkably Bright Creatures - Shelby Van Pelt / The Humans - Matt Haig


So what do Remarkably Bright Creatures and The Humans have in common? Mainly, that they are both very predictable. But both novels are based on clever enough plots that make them kind of hard to resist, so I kept hoping for the best despite feeling pretty certain that I knew exactly where each was heading by somewhere around the halfway points of their storylines. I'm not sorry that I read either of them, but I did end up feeling a bit let down by both books - especially the overhyped (in my opinion) Remarkably Bright Creatures. 

The best thing, by far, about Remarkably Bright Creatures is Marcellus the octopus who introduces himself right at the beginning of the novel on what is his 1,299th day of captivity. Marcellus knows that his days are numbered, and he is determined to make the most of them. That's why the shape-shifting octopus so much enjoys escaping from his aquarium every night when all the tourists are gone. But then one night, Tova Sullivan, the seventy-year-old cleaning lady discovers him on the floor all tangled up in electrical cords and near death. Tova rescues Marcellus, they become fast friends...and the novel begins to morph into just another romantic comedy. Sadly, the best part of the novel is over.

But where Van Pelt really lost me was when she decided that Marcellus, even though he can't speak, has taught himself to read English. He even tries to write at one point. I finished this one only because I was already so far into it.

The Humans, on the other hand, was not much hyped by the publishing media, so I didn't feel all that disappointed by its predictability. In fact, this one reminded me so much of a TV series called Resident Alien that it felt kind of like a comfort read at first. 

The novel's premise is that an alien from far, far away has been sent to Earth with instructions to halt the mathematical breakthrough that a college professor has just made. Humans are considered to be so primitively violent that more sophisticated beings consider them to be "a danger to the cosmos," so dangerous in fact that they will be sacrificed it that is the only way to keep them forever earthbound. 

But - of course - our alien assassin soon begins to understand the real beauty of being human and of being loved and cared for by others, something he has never experienced in his own world. His handlers aren't thrilled by that turn of events, and they try to call him home immediately. Guess what happens? You guessed it.

Both novels have their moments, and they can be fun - but when I can predict every climax resolution in a novel, there's not much reason to keep reading. And that's what happened with these two. 

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Bookstore Tricks


I finally found the time and energy to make it out to a couple of bookstores today. There are three good ones relatively near me, but I ran out of time before being able to swing by the indie shop that I like best. I shopped at Barnes & Noble and Half Price Books, and as usual, the experience left me a combination of frustrated, disappointed, and a little bit angry - the exact opposite of how I used to come away from shopping at B&N and Half Price Books not all that long ago. 

First stop was Barnes & Noble, a chain in which I've spent thousands of dollars over the years. Nothing much has changed, really, since my last visit except for the even greater sparsity of customers. Maybe three of us walking the floor and three or four others sitting with coffee and magazines. I did end up buying a copy of James because I'm so tired of waiting for my library copy (I was still number 36 on the waitlist after weeks of waiting). But the letdown in B&N is always the same: no current books on sale to speak of unless you consider $3 off a new hardback to be a game-changer, and absolutely no publisher overstock on sale. So instead of coming away with an armload of books the way I used to (usually for about $50 in total), I carried only my first edition copy of James away and still spent over $30, counting tax and the little magnetic page markers I also bought. 

I should add that I'm not at all a fan of those 3 for the price of 2 or buy one get the second for 50% off "sales" because I often end up buying something I really don't want to read just to get the discounted price on the one or two I did want to read. 

But that's not even the worst of today's visit. I was reminded again of just how poorly the Barnes & Noble "Rewards" program is run. In order to get a ten percent discount via the card B&N issues, a reader has to get ten "stamps" to their account, with each ten dollars spent earning one stamp. I've used the card several times now, and I'm convinced that B&N thinks we are all a bunch of dopes because the stamps are based on the ticket total for "eligible" purchases, whatever the definition of "eligible" is in this case (I do understand why tax should not apply). Every time I've used the card I get peeved because B&N refuses to round up the total spent to the nearest ten dollars that earn a stamp. For instance today, I spent $29 before tax and still was only given credit for two stamps. I figure I've missed out on almost as many credits now as I've earned, and I think that's wrong, if not insulting.

As for Half Price Books, this will be brief. I refuse to sell to Half Price Books anymore because I consider their offers even more insulting than B&N's reward program. Well today I found a book I sold to them a while back (my name is inside this one) for 50 cents marked $7 on the shelf. Honestly, that just made me laugh at myself for being too lazy to have refused the offer and carry those books back out to the car.

But it's not all doom and gloom today. Some of you know that I've been undergoing a lot of medical testing for almost 90 days now. I had another two-hour session yesterday that revealed that he autoimmune disease difficulty I've been having with my eyes has as mysteriously disappeared (at least for the moment) as it mysteriously first appeared early this year. The condition did leave me with what appears to be some permanent damage in the left eye, but the right one is back to normal.  So it's a happy day...and I need to keep reminding myself of just how lucky I am today, B&N and Half Price Books be damned. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Small Mercies - Dennis Lehane


Mary Pat Fennessy is one of just a handful of fictional characters I will remember forever, a character whose very name will always rekindle the essence of Dennis Lehane's remarkable novel Small Mercies in my mind.

It's 1974. It's Boston. And the city's public schools are about to be desegregated whether anyone in Mary Pat's Irish neighborhood wants them to be desegregated or not. Mary Pat, who has already lost two husbands and her only son, lives in Southie with her daughter Jules, a high school senior. Southie is the only home Mary Pat and Jules have ever known, and both of them understand who really calls the shots in Southie. They know that real power lies in the hands of one or two ruthless Irish mobsters, and anyone who crosses the mob is not likely to live long enough to do it twice. That's just the way it is, and the way it always has been.

Mary Pat is fine with all that - right up until the night that Jules doesn't come home from a date with the young man she considers to be one of Southie's biggest idiots. Mary Pat has already experienced enough loss and tragedy in her life, and she doesn't plan to experience another anytime soon, especially one involving the only child she has left. So, Mary Pat starts doing Mary Pat things, rattling cages, asking those who should have seen Jules last some uncomfortable questions - and slapping them around if she thinks they are lying to her. Then it gets complicated.

It seems that the same night that Jules disappeared, a young Black man died inside the neighborhood subway station after being struck by a train - and the cops have reason to believe his death was no accident. Now, for some reason, the cops want to find Jules just as badly as she wants to find her daughter, and Marty Butler, Irish mob boss, is telling Mary Pat to go home and quit asking so many questions - to get on with the rest of her life. Mary Pat, though, is not about to play that game.

" can't take everything from someone. You have to leave them something. A crumb. A goldfish. Something to protect. Something to live for. Because if you don't do that, what in God's name do you have left to bargain with?" (Mary Pat to police detective Bobby Coynes)

Mary Pat is going to play her own game, and she's going to make up the rules as she goes along.

True, Small Mercies is a revenge novel, a novel about what one remarkably strong woman is able and willing to do when she's left with nothing to live for. But it's much more than that. Small Mercies is about racism, the deeply embedded kind of racism that becomes so common that it goes unnoticed by those most guilty of it. It's about a woman who only slowly becomes aware of the destructive power of that kind of automatic hatred as she begins to question everything she's ever assumed about herself and those around her. It's the story of a woman who at least begins to sense the truth about the world, but only when it's too late for her to do much about it other than violently strike out at those who have betrayed her.

Small Mercies (the origin of this title will put tears in your eyes) is dark, violent, and sometimes a little difficult to read, but most of all it is powerful. This is not a book readers are going to forget a week after they read it. This one leaves a scar.

Songwriter Kris Kristofferson may have gotten it exactly right when he said "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." I think that Mary Pat Fennessy would be the first to agree. 

Dennis Lehane jacket photo

Monday, June 03, 2024

What I'm Reading This Week (June 3, 2024)

 Just as I hoped, Dennis Lehane's Small Mercies ensured that last week ended up being a really good reading week. I've read quite a few Lehane novels now, and this one just might be the best of the lot. But I'll have more to add on Small Mercies later in the week, so enough said for now. The wild card of the week turned out to be the unexpected copy of John O'Hara's Butterfield 8 that came my way. The only other book I finished was Why We Read by Shannon Reed, but I also made some progress on Matt Haig's The Humans and started reading Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves. Oh, and I DNF'd the Bill Mahar book, What This Comedian Said Will Shock You, because it was way more one-sided and biased than advertised.

I've kind of settled into a routine lately of having one physical book, one e-book, and if the right one comes along, maybe one audiobook going at the same time. That's what I'm doing with these three, and as long as the approach continues to work for me, I'll stick with the routine. Not sure what caused me to pull back that way, but it feels comfortable for now. I'm hoping to attack my shelves and Kindle backlist a little more successfully this way, but the only way to make that work for long is to limit temptation by cutting my library visits way back. And that won't be easy.

I'm having fun with The Humans but I can't shake the feeling that it has some kind of mysterious tie to the Resident Alien TV series I watched a while back. The premise of both stories is eerily similar: alien comes to Earth to eliminate mankind because humans have become a threat to the rest of the galaxy all of a sudden, but said alien learns to respect and even love certain humans enough to make the alien question his entire mission. They don't seem to be linked at all, but the similarity between the two is pretty astounding to me.

I noticed John O'Hara's Butterfield 8 was available when I opened the Libby app to return an e-book to my local library. I haven't read much O'Hara, but I do remember that Butterfield 8 was a semi-scandalous Elizabeth Taylor movie back in the day, so the title and cover caught my eye. I never did get around to watching the 1960 movie, but my memories of the publicity it got made me wonder how it could have possibly been written in 1935. I'm about one-third of the way through it now, and I'm finding the novel to be well written and and much more frank than I thought a 1935 novel would be. Still not sure where this one is headed.

Harbour Street is book number six in the Ann Cleeves Vera Stanhope series. I vaguely remembering watching the TV series version of this one a few years ago, but so far that hasn't impacted my reading of Harbour Street at all. I'm only ten percent in, and Cleeves is still in the process of setting up the crime scene and introducing all the players, but this one already seems a little bit easier to get into than some of the earlier books in the series. Maybe it's because Joe is the main character in the first chapter, and Vera in the second. No having to read 75-100 pages before Vera shows up for the first time. That's always a good thing.

Depending on what I finish this week, this is the small pool of books I'm likely to be choosing from for my next reads:

I'm also putting together plans for a ten-day roadtrip beginning on June 22 during which I hope to explore a couple of states with my youngest grandson. I want to introduce him to the history of blues music, Cajun culture, and a Civil War battle site or two, so reading time is going to be limited for the last week of June. Generally, the plan is to explore southwest Louisiana, ending up near Natchez, Mississippi, before heading north up Highway 61 (The Blues Trail), and over to Shiloh Battlefield in southern Tennessee. Then we'll head back down through places like Tupelo and Oxford before circling back through Louisiana and home. I'm familiar with all the stops we will be making, but I hope to lock in for him the same love for road trips that my father passed on to me. 

If you guys have any trip-tips for that part of the country, please let me know. Have a great week!