Rated Reads

Travel Writing

by Peter Ferry

Rated: High

Teacher Peter Ferry is trying to get through to his high school students about what it means to write a story that really captures someone’s attention. Does a story have to be real? Does it have to be completely fiction? What elements make a story compelling?

To illustrate, he tells them about an accident he witnessed on his way home from work one day: a young Korean-American actress named Lisa Kim was weaving dangerously on the road and eventually crashed, instantly killing herself. Ferry was following her as she was driving so recklessly and wondering what he could possibly do to stop the inevitable crash. Afterward, he became obsessed with the accident and with Lisa.

The novel follows Ferry’s story to his class, with occasional interruptions by the students’ questions and comments, and with background information about Ferry himself and his side job of travel writing. He tells of his longtime live-in girlfriend and their somewhat unconventional relationship, and of the detective work he is doing in trying to figure out more about Lisa and what caused her to be weaving and driving so dangerously. Since the book reads so much like a memoir, truth and fiction are blurred beyond normal literary bounds, and the reader is left to wonder, with the class, what parts are true and what are just … story.

Ferry’s novel is fun, interesting, almost a bit like being inside a practical joke. We know that we are being toyed with, but we go along with it just for the fun of seeing what will happen next and how it will be tied up in the end. Somehow it ends up feeling both simple and brilliant at the same time.

Rated: High for language and some sexual content. There are 14 uses of strong language, 15 to 20 instances of moderate language and about 15 of mild language. Sexual content is mild to moderate in description but fairly limited.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Travel Writing
  • by Peter Ferry
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: