Cantankerous folk musician Lansing Meadows is on the final cross-country tour of his career, which will be capped off by a lifetime achievement award he views as his dismissal from the spotlight. He is accompanied by aspiring musician Evan Cornfield, his driver and spontaneously appointed manager, and reporter-fan Dacey Brown. Despite Lansing’s cultish success, his tour is a lowly trip, punctuated by town halls, diners, and long hours in a beat-up Corolla. Accentuating the angst are his increasingly frequent episodes of forgetfulness and delusion, and his desire to reconcile with those he loves before it’s too late.
The extended road trip as a metaphor for an existential journey is a familiar formula. Domet’s take on it succeeds by alternating the three perspectives, which allows us to witness the humbling contrast between ambition and success, fame and anonymity, youth and age, and truth and illusion.
This humorous, poignant novel about finding purpose and meaning also illustrates the harsh reality of life as a Canadian artist: “Lansing … was still touring the country by car. Submitting to indignities … getting paid hundreds, not thousands, and still scrabbling…. Shouldn’t there be some advantage to all that fame? Shouldn’t all those years of artistic service amount to something?” While this message is valid, Domet occasionally belabours the point, having her hero pontificate about the music world and life in general.
The pace of the novel sometimes stutters, and the author has a tendency to overstate her characters’ struggles and the book’s themes. The repetition of full names, images, and scenes emphasizes Lansing’s forgetfulness, but ultimately detracts from the reading experience.
Despite these shortcomings, Domet’s aptly titled novel – which recalls advice Stompin’ Tom Connors used to give newbies who toured with him (“You better be able to hold your liquor boys, we don’t want any fallsy downsies on the bus”) – is a tender portrayal of aging and an entertaining, compassionate story of an unlikely crew negotiating fraught and complicated friendships and finding meaning in each other.