Review – Doyle Duke’s Extended Vacation
This tagline is not wrong. Books should challenge you and Doyle E. Duke’s Extended Vacation challenged me, upset me and rocked me to my very core. As an elderly man Sam Henson has lost his wife after she left him, has a homosexual son, and a daughter that swears she is helping him but is pretty much robbing him. Add to the melting pot his chronic health issues and bad attitude, and Sam is never in a good place. He rows with Karen his daughter about finances. She is adamant that she only buys what is needed for her father and fuel expenses for herself, but he knows her husband is a jobless writer and that she is taking him for a fool after he finds cheque stubs for nail treatments and the like. She is also disgusted at her father’s attitude towards, not only her and her family, but his only son Tom, who he hates for his sexual orientation.
After one final argument Sam puts his house up for sale, takes all his money out of the bank and decides he is going to take his motorhome on a road trip to Alaska. Here he will shoot himself as he fears a long and painful death. Along the way he meets Terri. Terri is a teenage black girl and Sam’s racism comes to the fore but there is something about this young girl that Sam can’t quite stay away from and they journey, albeit uncomfortably at first, together. As they travel Sam and Terri get to know each other and bits of their past affect the other. Sam’s endgame is planned out, but what is Terri’s big secret?
This was an astonishing read. The basic story is like most road trip related ones but the way Duke writes his characters is right on the knife edge of obscene and I ‘get’ them. Sam is a hostile old sod with some real issues especially when it comes to race and homosexuality, and reminded me an awful lot of my Grandad. Don’t get me wrong I loved my Grandad but as I grew older I could see the personality traits he had embedded in him and, whilst that particular generation couldn’t see the faults in themselves, I certainly could. As Sam softens during the novel you get to see a man that you believe was once lovely, before life dealt him too much for him to cope with, and the slight changes as the chapters progress are as heart-warming as the early encounters with Sam were horrendous.
Doyle E. Duke has opened a window into a world that too many of us pretends is more perfect than it actually is, and the challenge of our views from our ivory towers is hard to take at times. To enjoy Extended Vacation, which I really did, you need to try and shut the morality part of your brain and journey as Sam does until you get to a place more in keeping with emotional wellbeing. You need a strong stomach, an ability to see past the obvious, and you will be stunned by how well written the book actually is.
A quite harrowing but brilliant story.
**** 4 Stars!!!