Aug 4, 2008

Book Review: Driving Sideways

What would you do if you were 29 years old, had been very sick and ultimately had a major organ transplant, never really lived on your own or was able to do the adventurous things in life most twenty-somethings do? Would you drive across country from Wisconsin to California in your Saturn with a kayak strapped to the roof in search of answers to questions you have about your life?

That’s exactly what Leigh Fielding did Much to the dismay of her over-protective, angry older brother, James. But its not surprising he wouldn’t approve of this rebellion of sorts; he lives a very responsible life with not a lot of consideration for the spontaneous. But there are good reasons why James has become the person he is. Maybe its because their mother ran off to California without ever looking back when Leigh was just five years old and he was fifteen. Not to mention the loss of their father a few years later.

A year after Leigh’s kidney transplant, she feels healthy and strong enough to do something uncharacteristically crazy. That’s when she decides to make this journey. Her ultimate destination is Los Angeles to find her mother whom she hasn’t seen in 23 years and barely remembers. However, she does plan a few stops along the way. First, to look up her ex-boyfriend, the only serious relationship she’s ever had, who broke her heart. Secondly, to spend a day in Colorado visiting her best friend, Jillian who now lives there with her fiancé, who Leigh hasn’t met, but already doesn’t like much. Then its off to Utah to look up the family of Larry Resnick, the previous owner of the organ Leigh now uses to filter her urine. Along the way, Leigh encounters some interestingly unusual people and circumstances, many of which force her to take a long look at herself and the choices she makes.

DRIVING SIDEWAYS is the most entertaining book I’ve read all year. I loved it! If you’re like me and you love sarcastic humor, you’d enjoy this book too. There were times that I’d laugh until I had tears in my eyes. Literally, laughing out loud! Also, you have to appreciate a writer that uses your favorite word, especially when its an odd word. That word for me is ‘snarky’, and I was tickled to see Ms. Riley use it. Even though the story itself has a common theme - self discovery, she made it fresh and different. And while Leigh deals with a serious illness (PKD), she was able to raise awareness about the disease without it becoming depressing. She incorporated it into a very well written story. All of the characters were interesting and likeable. I loved their senses of humor and the way they interacted with one another. While reading this book, I had such a clear image of who these people were that I was able to visualize it all in my mind It was like a movie. A really good movie. As I said before, this book made me laugh, but it also touched my heart.

I won’t say that it is a quick read, because for me, it wasn‘t. The story is told by Leigh as if the reader is a new friend and she’s talking about a very important time in her life. There was so much in this book, that I wanted to read it slowly and not miss anything. It all just worked!

I first heard about this book from Julie P at Booking Mama. Based on her review (read it here), I ran out and got my own copy. By the way, the book is now in its THIRD printing! Jess Riley was even kind enough to send me a signed bookplate for the front of my book! Thanks Jess! I think DRIVING SIDEWAYS would make an interesting choice for a book club. Its not your normal book club pick, but it would certainly lead to some interesting discussions. If you’re looking for a fun read with lots of interesting and entertaining dialogue, you can’t go wrong with DRVING SIDEWAYS.

Check out Jess Riley’s website at I really enjoyed reading this book and I’ll definitely be looking out for more from this unique and very talented writer.

Author: Jess Riley
Published: May 2008
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 338
Would I recommend this book? YES!


  1. Thanks for the shout out! I'm so glad you enjoyed this wonderful book. I get a little scared when people spend money based on my opinion! :)

  2. Books that make me laugh out loud are especially rare!

  3. Aw, thanks so much!!! I was grinning ear-to-ear as I read this. So, so happy you liked it!

  4. I really want to read this one!

  5. Thanks for such a fantastic review - I can't wait to get my hands on this one - I love books like this.

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