In Matt Richtel’s, A Deadly Wandering there’s a lot going on. With some good parts and some bad, the story ended up dragging out much longer than necessary. As a textbook for aspiring journalists, it’s not far off the mark. As a novel for anyone to pick up off the best sellers shelf, I’d say buyers beware, I’ve read much better.
Let’s start with my biggest complaint, how much the story jumps around. Especially at the start when they are introducing all the characters. It starts to get confusing trying to figure out who they are talking about and how they are each related to the story. He weaves in and out of the crime and history, but along the way lost me as a reader several times. This is my opinion as someone who enjoys novels.
As a journalism student, I dissected it a bit differently. From the start what stood out to me was the attention to detail in the writing. For example: “A mass of pink gooey stuff that had been sprayed on impact. Keith’s brain.” On page 56. The graphic detail could almost make me smell the car wreck, although disgusting, it was really effective. Although a lot of the time you would leave the graphic detail out of an article when someone has died to protect the family, it’s important for a journalist to take these notes, so they can appropriately describe and or remember the scene. Those graphic details are sometimes what brings your story to the next level, but it is important for a writer to use them sparingly and only when it will move a story ahead, rather than bog it down with unnecessary detail.
One of my absolute favourite lines in the whole book was “Why spend all our time fixing problems when we can perhaps devote a little time preventing them in the first place.” This is so accurate to so many of the issues we have in society. One particular that has been an on-going issue in Canada, specifically Winnipeg is teaching people about reconciliation. If we can spend time on the front end it will save a lot of time down the road to prevent racism, mental illness etc. I find it interesting how that can be applied in a book about a case of texting and driving, but it can be adapted to numerous other issues in our world. By a journalist taking the time to investigate and bring these issues to light, it gives society the opportunity to act on the problems and try to fix them.
I found his approach to the case interesting. He did a really good job with the human element, introducing us to the characters, giving us relevant information about their past (ex: Terryl’s abusive father and the past, her PTSD, her children.) It gave you an idea of these people’s reactions.
Although he did a great job weaving the human elements into the chapters, it wasn’t weaved into the science and facts enough. It made it very hard to follow what was happening when it was jumping around so much. It took me over 200 pages to really grasp each of the characters. At times, it felt more like I was reading someone’s notes, rather than an executed story.
Overall, I was not a fan. I don’t entirely know who the audience he was writing for was, and I am not convinced he knew either. He was given an enormous topic, and rather than focusing on one path he tried to go down to many paths, making the writing unclear and jumbled together. I think I would have enjoyed it more had it been written in a three part series so I could follow each independent story from start to finish
As I mentioned he was given an enormous topic, texting while driving, and I felt he scratched the surface of multiple LEADS. It didn’t leave me feeling impacted by the gravity of the story, which I am disappointed by.