I had high hopes for this novel. But then I realized that this is not so much a novel as it is a treatise on spiritual awakening. As such, I have no doubt that the author does a good job presenting the details of the main character's spiritual education (the main character, a lawyer named Ted Day, calls it “Spirit Tech"). However, the result of this emphasis on spiritual instruction renders the characters flat and lifeless – they come across as nothing but cardboard cutouts to help present the ideas that make up the bulk of the story. When you take away all of that, what is left is a simplistic and not very compelling plot.
The novel starts out with promising and relatively eccentric characters, however: a lawyer, Ted Day, who takes his grandfather’s Winnebago out on a desperately-needed road trip to try and find himself; a young Native American woman, Angel Two Sparrow, who takes her aunt’s retrofitted bookmobile (nicknamed “Bertha”) out on the road to start her spiritual consulting business; and the aunt herself, Aunt Lilly, who is in prison for shooting her husband on the advice of a dream. There’s also an intriguing premise: Ted and Angel get into a collision, and as part of their “settlement” over the damages to the Winnebago, Angel agrees to educate Ted in the basics of spirituality. As they keep traveling, Ted and Angel make contact with several of Angel’s friends, all of whom are spiritual guides like her, and all eager to wax eloquent in the pages of the novel. Most of the characters seem quite reluctant to actually do things of any consequence, however, preferring mostly to sit around and talk like they just stepped out of the pages of a philosophy book. The reader keeps waiting for the plot to come back, and it never really does. Ted does eventually get around to working up a defense for Aunt Lilly but it’s almost as an afterthought to the rest of the novel, and even though I am no lawyer, the defense seemed pretty flimsy to me. It was clear that this plot element was being slotted in to serve the bigger “plot” of Ted’s spiritual education.
The book is well-written, and it has much to offer the reader who may be a seeker, looking to explore questions of religion and spirituality. However, for the reader who wants a good, old-fashioned story with a plot and everything, there’s just not much of that here.