Brief Reviews of Go West Old Man

Go West Old Manis a touching story of a man's journey across the country with his son. It outlines the struggles and joys of the relationship between child and parent, and speaks to every one of us. I found it to be full of honesty and much soul-searching. How wonderful it would be if every parent had at least one such pilgrimage with their child! I was impressed by this man's courage, and willingness to open himself to a deeper relationship with his son.
Michelle Simpson, Eclectic Book Reviews

There is the poignant and edgy Go West Old Man, A Father's Journey across America with His Son by Max Barnet, which is a deeper look into the intra-personal connections between two men, in this case, the most philosophically pot-holed of all, that of father and son. It is not an easy read any more than such a journey would be. Is it true? It feels that way (namely painful) and the author says in a note on the copyright page that it is, with merely names changed. Some of the dialogue has that smoothness that only comes when a story has been told many times.

In the end it doesn't matter. These are, in your mind, two people trying to touch and not knowing how the other will react, two men in the confines of automotive privacy, each hoping that the other knows what underlies the words. Life ain't easy, is it?
Marilis Hornidge, The Courier-Gazette, Rockland, ME

(Appearing below the newspaper's review: "Ms. Hornidge has never never never understood the masculine of the species, but finds them fascinating anyhow.")

From the Foreword
When 60 year old Harry Simon decides to travel by pickup truck with his 26 year old son Danny, he embarks on an odyssey worthy of the name. Homer wrote that it is a wise child who knows his own father; later Shakespeare countered with it's a wise father who knows his own child. This mutual wisdom both father and son put to the test as they take a journey that, at times, becomes as pleasant as going over Niagara Falls together in a barrel. Yet it also provides each of them with insights, motives, fears, failures and aspirations neither suspected in the other, much less experienced at close range.

In this blistering nonfiction account Harry Simon and his son take the ride of their lives. It is a deeply moving, penetrating, and ultimately heartbreaking experience of two men trying to reconcile their differences in a love-hate relationship wrought from years of family turmoil.

Though at times they hit it off, laughing together, agreeing on some points, mostly, however, the two behave toward each other as two masochists. Anglo-Saxonisms intrude occasionally and the dialogue is broken-glass sharp. It is as harsh as it is relentless with poignantly humorous ripostes to ease the tension.

Max Barnet makes the narrative gleam with some of the best prose written today - adroit, resonant, lyrical - describing America's natural wonders. Poetic images of forests, canyons, fields, compressed to virile discourse impress the reader with the beauty of creation as well as the human hand that is forever hell-bent on marring it.

Leo Rosten once quoted a Hebrew proverb: "When a father helps his son, they both laugh; when, however, a son helps his father, both cry." Danny, in helping Harry see their respective lives in their interaction, makes of that Hebrew author a prophet. Since Harry is Jewish (the Holocaust never far from his thoughts), he cannot be unaware of Proverbs: "A wise son gladdens his father's heart." In today's pop culture, bumper-sticker philosophy, however, Danny's karma runs over Harry's dogma. If, as Harry believes, we are placed on this earth to suffer, to love, and to grow, then Harry's trip with his son Danny proves more than compensatory. Go West Old Man is a wonderful reading adventure that deserves a wide audience.
Ramon De Rosas

Day One Minus One - Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Day One - Southern New England and Eastern Pennsylvania
Day Two - Pennsylvania, Ohio & Indiana
Day Three - Chicago
Day Four - Wisconsin & Minnesota
Day Five - Minnesota & North Dakota
Day Six - Montana
Day Seven - Glacier National Park, Montana
Day Eight - Idaho & Washington State
Day Nine - Washington State
Day Ten - Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Day Eleven - Washington & Oregon
Day Twelve - Oregon & California
Day Thirteen - Lake Tahoe & Yosemite
Day Fourteen - California
Day Fifteen - Santa Monica, California
Epilogue - One Year Later, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Addendum - Ten Years Later, Midcoast Maine

An Excerpt

Day Ten - Olympic Peninsula, Washington: The long road to the Hoh rain forest passes through more scenes of forest destruction. The Hoh itself is a marvel of 250 foot spruces, hemlocks, Douglas firs, cedars, and maples (in sunny places) acquire a magnitude attained nowhere else. Under the dense canopy the forest light is suffused, the air naturally cooled (nature's air-conditioning) and sweetly pine scented. A mass of ferns blankets the forest floor. The extended limbs of maples, stretching like gnarled beggars' arms, are shrouded in green moss. In the Hoh it rains 140 inches a year, creating an unimaginable place.

While taking the half-hour hike (longer ones are possible) through the primeval reservation, I tell Danny of my long persistent wish to visit this peninsula. On this path I have found what I came for. Feeling lightheaded and without substance as within a dream, I am bowled over by the fantasy forest.

"So what do you think of the place, now that you're here?" Danny asks on the way out.

"It all depends. Wherever man is, I see devastation. But where he isn't, where he' s kept away, it's as impressive and beautiful as I expected. The clear cutting saddens me."

"Still we need the resources," Danny argues. "Where else can we find this kind of lumber, especially for making shingles?"

"Don' t get me wrong. I agree that people are important and we must use what the land provides in order to survive, but only temporarily. Future generations will also need the earth' s yield, so let's replant and restore, yes, even improve. And let each generation during its tenure bear the cost of restoration by including it in the price of things." Danny listens and nods.

South of the Hoh on 101 along the western side of the peninsula, the road tunnels through a towering corridor of thick hemlocks. It's a road through an eternal ancient forest, a road through forever. We stop for lunch at a highway restaurant that overlooks the Pacific, and eat fried oysters, tender and fresh. Unhappily forsaking the bewitching peninsula, we move on, and soon enter a flat, dull countryside that evolves into the blighted outlying streets of a commercial, industrial metropolitan area.

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