Before I even start writing my review, I have a confession. I love Catherine Ryan Hyde. Yes, I do! I read Boy Underground in 2021. It was so heart-tugging and memorable that I fell in love with the author’s style of writing. Okay, now that it’s out, I can start with my review… So Long, Chester Wheeler is a redeeming story of two characters, as opposite as they can be, on a road trip covering two thousand miles.
I dived into this book expecting a lot and by the end was a little dismayed, but not totally unhappy. In her exemplary style, Hyde left a mark as I travelled with the characters.
Illness, death, friendship, love, caregiving, and forgiveness are a few of the broader themes in this story.
Lewis Madigan, the narrator, is a young man who has recently lost his job. To make matters worse, his boyfriend has walked out on him, leaving him with enormous bills and rent to take care of. While he is still grappling with the situation, an unexpected job opportunity is presented to him — to be Chester Wheeler’s caregiver. Wheeler is Lewis’s 70-year-old neighbour. Homophobic, rude, and sarcastic, there is hardly anyone available to attend to him, except for his daughter, and she too needs to leave because of a personal emergency.
As expected, Lewis is not fond of Wheeler, but takes up the offer only because of the remuneration. His attitude towards Wheeler changes once he comes to know of his illness and decides to help fulfill his last wish—a road trip of over 2000 miles in Wheeler’s RV to meet someone.
Initially, the road trip is bumpy, but as it proceeds, both Lewis and Wheeler develop an understanding and mutual respect for each other. The road trip is not just a physical journey, but also a philosophical and psychological one.
I loved the storyline, even though it lacks enough conflict or surprise. The drama, hope, humour, and emotions make up for the missing elements.
Lewis and Chester’s conversations are quite adorable and realistic.
Wheeler’s character is well sketched and I could visualise the grumpy old man. His homophobia is brutal and hard to accept, but then, this is who he is, and Hyde’s portrayal suits the man to his bones. He is not a very likable character and remains so until the very end.
Lewis’s character, however, left me craving for more. On one hand, he is trusting, kind, and helpful, while on the other, he comes off as too soft and unable to say no quite often. The youngster grabs the first opportunity that is presented to him without putting in the effort to find a job more suited to his experience and qualifications. I am glad things work out for him, and he finds this shift to be rewarding.
I didn’t like the epilogue and felt it was unnecessary and didn’t add any value to the story.
Secrets from the past, revelations lending a new light, and the forging of new bonds make So Long, Chester Wheeler an interesting read.
Even though I didn’t enjoy this as much as her previous work, I remain a true Hyde fan!
Wordsopedia Rating 3.85/5
|Title: So Long, Chester Wheeler
|Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde
|Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
|Publication date: 6 Dec 2022
|No. of Pages: 304
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About the author
Catherine Ryan Hyde is an American novelist and short story writer, with more recent forays and notable success in transitioning from traditional publication towards the world of eBook publishing.
Get in touch with the author on her website.