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Booked for the Day

The Longest Road by Philip Caputo

On Monday, April 7th, the Booked for the Day Book Group met to discuss the book, The Longest Road by Philip Caputo. Here are a few things we discussed during the meeting:

We started the discussion with the question Caputo had put to everyday Americans he had meet on his journey, “What holds us together?”  We talked about how when the chips are down we do bind together.  For example, 911, Hurricane Katrina, and one member mentioned that many countries are involved in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, countries that don’t necessarily get along. We talked about how unfortunately, even though conflict brings us together, it does not always hold us together once the conflict is over.  After some discussion the majority of the group felt that common interests was something that binds us together. Most of us thought that people tend to gravitate toward people that share a common history or interest.

We talked about how Caputo’s journey may have been different if he did not bring his wife, the dogs, and the Airstream along. One member who traveled in an Airstream gave us some of its history. People tended to be impressed by an Airstream so that could have been a conversation starter. We also thought that the dogs were a great way to meet people and that most people felt safer talking to them as a couple. Because of his 50 years’ experience as a journalist, he also knew how to get people to open up.

We also talked about the question of “What held his marriage together?” Most of us thought that the two words that Caputo had said to his wife was, “I’m sorry.” He did seem to know when to stop arguing and he made an effort not to let the trip ruin his marriage. Some of the women did not like his descriptions of the women he meet on his journey and wondered how his wife felt reading about them. Also his thoughts about her not being able to find clientele for her prostitution business was something he was smart enough to keep to himself.

We had some general discussion about what we learned from the book or what surprised us. One member shared a story of why Indians on the reservations ask for money which helped to give us a better understanding of their situation. We talked about the canoe trip and how it was a new tradition, brownies and all. We talking about the meatpacking plant and some of us were familiar with the smell that came from similar places. One member identified with Caputo’s take on how the age of instant communication has not slowed but accelerated the spread of myth and rumor. Lastly we were surprised that he would take his wife fishing in a river in Alaska that almost killed his son. None of us thought that we would have wanted to come near that place again.

Caputo’s comment in regards to the GPS, “Technology is making too many of us physically and mentally lazy,” was something we all agreed with. Most of us like using a map but thought the GPS was great if you were traveling alone.

After encountering tourist, Caputo tells his wife, “I’m not a tourist. I’m a traveler.” One member thought his ego was taken down a peg at the beginning of the trip when he meet a couple in Florida who had walked from West Virginia (that’s a traveler). Later in the book Caputo meets someone who started from the tip of South America. Even though generally they avoided tourist spots they did take a couple of tours. When I saw Mount Rushmore I do have to agree with Caputo, there was a huge gift shop when you walk in but I am still glad that I got a chance to see and walk around the sculpture.

When the group was asked if they would take a trip like Caputo there wasn’t anyone who seemed excited about it. Some thought they would but they stay in a hotel. Some thought the best way to plan a trip like that is to take your time and not be on a set schedule. All in all the group enjoyed the book but agreed that it was not a quick read. The thermos full of water from three oceans was a little odd for us but we enjoyed the historical information he gave us and the quotes that were throughout the book. These are just a few things mentioned during the discussion. Please feel free to add any of your thoughts in the comment section.


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