What could inspire a coast-to-coast expedition from the Pacific to the Atlantic—by bike, no less? The title of THAT HIDDEN ROAD: A MEMOIR tells readers everything and nothing. Versaci’s intrepid journey has been preceded by another, on a hidden road that he traveled long before his front bike tire hits the pavement.
Like so many who achieve the incredible, Versaci has no idea what he is getting into before he sets off for North Carolina from San Diego, California—and if he had, chances are he would have quailed at the very prospect, rather than hopping on trusty bike “Rusty” and pedaling like mad. The trip brings him all manner of adventures: chilling—when he dodges death at the wheels of semi-trucks—as well as heartwarming—when the tenderhearted parents of a friend take him in and offer him a place in their family. As he pedals on, enmeshed in his own thoughts, the reader joins him in contemplating what brought him to the road, and what comes next.
Like Versaci, I hadn’t a clue what I was in for when I began his cross-country voyage; travel memoirs range from the mind-numbing to the inspirational. I was prepared for long stretches of boredom—as Rocco himself no doubt endured as he rode through the blank-skied Midwest. Instead, I found myself increasingly intrigued. With ease, Rocco dodges the common pitfalls of a travel memoir: focusing too much on the physical journey and neglecting the emotional and psychological aspects, summarizing the events of the trip without meaningful reflection, covering every event rather than shaping the narrative through only the most important ones. Instead, he skillfully braids introspection on the events of his past and present life with observations of the hidden worlds he uncovers at each stop along the way.
Rocco Versaci is wonderfully funny and startlingly truthful. Witty descriptions abound—he drily remarks that the automated voice that plays during a CT scan calls to mind “a guy named Geoff-with-a-G, who wears a turtleneck sweater and types on his MacBook”—reminding us that Rocco is more than an adventurer: he’s a bit of a goofball, a father who loves wrestling, and a professor infatuated with comics. His heartrending depiction of his mother, progressively suffering from dementia, reminds readers that he is as sensitive and caring about his family as any of us.
A boon for nonfiction junkies and casual readers alike, THAT HIDDEN ROAD is one of a few travel memoirs that can be referred to as a page-turner, a designation typically reserved for thrillers and mysteries. Rocco, like the best of narrators, is as interesting as the voyage itself.
~Katy Major for IndieReader