All That Road Going

For most of my life, as long as I can remember at least, I’ve enjoyed people watching. Airports are great. So are train stations. Sitting on a public bench or at a table looking out at the sidewalk of a busy city also make great spots. What is the fascination? I’m not sure. I think it’s because all these people represent such different stories.

I watch and I ponder and I absorb the different faces and different styles and different postures. Different places offer different casts of characters. Different classes or races or likely histories.

All That Road Going is a book for those of us who people watch, because it’s this treat we are never given in real life. It’s a look into the thoughts and stories of various characters all on their way. That the setting is a Greyhound bus means we are looking at the particular people who would ride a Greyhound bus, not exactly the symbol of roaring success.

The style is literary fiction. Mojtabai is a gifted writer, with a sharp eye for detail and insight about humanity. Her prose is well-crafted, offering both readability and vibrant descriptions of her often bland, maybe even forgettable settings. This is a book about people we might not notice, in places we would likely ignore or dismiss. But instead of dismissing them, Mojtabai dwells, sits with them and encourages us to see real people.

All That Road GoingThe book itself feels like Mojtabai was interested in doing character sketches, and then found a convenient way to tie these various sketches together. Not only is there no real plot, there isn’t a consistent narrator. Each chapter, for the most part, gives us the perspective from a different seat. The bus driver makes the most appearances as we learn his values and perspectives. Mojtabai crafts her writing to fit each narrator as we go, making the prose itself become insight into the characters, and done so with expertise.

All That Road Going is a very good book. Well written and quite interesting, if you like character studies. Low ratings that I’ve seen seem to be not a reflection about this book as much as they are about the fact some people just don’t like this type of book.

If you are wanting an action packed plot or flowing story this likely isn’t the best book. If you people watch and would love to have just a taste of what it would be like to hear the stories of the people walking by or sitting near then this is a wonderful treat.

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