Reviewed by David H. Greegor (Mexico 2007-11)
Americruise by Lawrence F. Lihosit is a short book with a mega font perfect for geezers like me, although this 2017 second edition (first edition published in 1993) wasn’t written just for the geriatrics amongst us; the author wrote the original when he was 33.
For roughly the first quarter of the book, I can’t say as I liked it at all. I thought the author was wacko with a complete disregard for syntax and the rules of the English language. His style defies description. This completely threw me off at the outset, quite likely because I’d never read anything by Mr. Lihosit before. His crazy syntax reminds of someone writing English but throwing in some Spanish rules of grammar. This makes sense because the heroine in the story, his wife, Margarita, is Mexican and they had lived in Mexico City.
If you are looking for normalcy, read something else. Having said that, after perhaps 20 pages into the book I had become accustomed to the author’s bizarre style and sense of humor (which is exceedingly unique), I started to like Americruise and by the end of the book I was hooked and truly saddened to see it end. The story is about a bus journey taken in 1984 by Lawrence and Margarita not long after they were married and had moved to the U.S. The travel group eventually grew to include both of Margarita’s sisters, Licha and Martha.
Three of the four bus to NYC to see a publisher and join sister Martha. Now four, they bus back to San Francisco via Canada. All are on a bare-bones budget, and that’s stating it mildly, as Lihosit many times describes their trip rations as “dust.”
Often he closes an observation with, for example, “You betchya” or “Cowabunga, who’d a tunk it?” Language I would have used as a Boy Scout in the 1950s.
To give you a sense of Lihosit’s writing style (sometimes confusing as hell), and humor, on page. 37, after reaching the office of the NY editor who had, or so he thought, expressed interest in talking to him about his book, he writes:
At the last open door, the name was barely spoken when that gal’s pearl necklace swung around her neck like errant reins and she pushed her rollered chair back against the far wall, her face white. She yelled about trespassing and the police. A vein in her forehead pulsated pink which made me wonder if maybe this wasn’t poor timing. No matter how much my voice lowered or my hands were nearly crossed in front of my family jewels, passively like Indians do in Central America, my head bowed, she kept right on shouting until the nail painting secretary yelled back about dialing the police. All this for a novel? I reminded Ann about our long-distance conversation, her invite, my many telephone calls while in New York City. She finally stammered, her voice going up an octave while she told me that my manuscript was putrid garbage not fit to publish in Los Angeles, let alone someplace special like New York. I don’t think she liked it.
Several other examples of the author’s unique descriptiive and humorous style regarding activities, places and people include, such as follows on page 77, while they are camping their way across Canada:
The sun set, silhouetting the forest. Bill flicked on his outside generator, then the spotlights, so that we could play catch with his son. He loaned me a recently oiled Rawlings special with the extra-long pocket and wide index finger so that two fingers could slip in with no problem. I unloosened my belt and put on the glove. (Next paragraph) Birds chirped the next morning. I stretched one leg. “You’re on my arm!” Margarita yelled.
. . .
This was a high-density campsite and putting on our trousers inside the tent, we looked like two worms after being pinched in the middle; wiggling this way and that.
. . .
The lake stretched out in all directions for a couple of miles. Its surface was like a shingle roof after a hurricane, all dips and turned up edges.
We sat for a spell watching a wind surfer cross the lake from nowhere to nowhere.
On page 79, after eating “dust” for days, malnourished and skin and bones, they were camped in Riding Mountain National Park and caught in a rainstorm. In their tent, Margarita raised the subject of having children. Lawrence writes:
Maybe all this talk of babies had something to do with malnutrition.
The entire 94 pages are essentially continuous examples of his unique descriptive prose and sense of humor, just like the above. As I said at the beginning of this review, from the first page to the last, I did 180 degrees in regard to my opinion of this little book. No question about it, I would definitely read other books by Mr. Lihosit.
Reviewer Dr. David Greegor (Mexico 2007-11) is a Research Associate and Curator of Herpetology at the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History, College of Idaho and the author of Going To México, Stories of My Peace Corps Service published in 2017.