3 out of 4 stars
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An exhilarating book from beginning to end, Silk Road: The Journey by Kenneth Canatsey follows the experiences of the young narrator, Ken, as he travels across the globe during the 1960s. Though fiction, it has a very personal writing style and it’s easy to see that the author certainly pulls from his own life experiences and adventures, though how much so I can only guess. Ken begins his journey in 1966 at the age of 22. He’s just graduated from college in CA and sets off to hitchhike his way to NYC, from where he again embarks on an even longer journey while making his way through a huge portion of Europe and Asia. Readers get an up-close view of the struggles he faces physically, mentally, and emotionally and the strange and captivating situations he finds himself in.
Ken’s adventures take him to exotic places like Nepal, Greece, India, France, Spain, Italy, Israel, and Istanbul, to name a few. He’ll have all sorts of experiences along the way, such as studying different religions like Hinduism and Christianity, discovering the effect of drugs like acid and opium, and understanding what it’s like to form meaningful yet brief bonds with strangers from various walks of life. As the narrator contemplates life’s existential questions and meditates on his own place in the world, the backdrop of the 60s plays an important role in pushing and testing his assumptions and convictions through music, the culture of self-exploration, and the question of war.
I loved many things about this book, one of which is the vividness with which Canatsey writes. Nearly every sense is stimulated through the smell and taste of foods, the detailed imagery of places, the descriptions of texture, and the attention to surrounding noise. As a reader, I had a front row seat to every single thing, good and bad, that the narrator experiences. Furthermore, as a world traveler myself, I can honestly say that Canatsey does a fantastic job of making readers feel like they’re actually traveling alongside Ken. The many places in the book I’ve actually visited in real life were described incredibly accurately and the parts on places I haven’t been to certainly had me itching to buy some plane tickets and go!
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars because the rating system doesn’t allow us to give 4 stars if we find more than 10 errors, which I did. However, the errors truly weren’t distracting and given the volume of the book, there were not that many (there were just over 10). An example of one is “How explain this?” (LOC 5535, CH 36) with the “to” missing from the infinitive verb. I would have loved to give the book 4 stars though, as I found it an extremely interesting novel with some very poignant discussions raised. It talks about one’s path to religion, individualism versus collectivism, and whether or not one can relate to others after having had life-changing experiences they haven’t. Other things I liked about the book include the moments of comedy, the truth with which Canatsey writes about life and traveling (the moments of extreme euphoria and extreme disappointment), the effect that our emotions have on our perception of our environment, and the way in which people and places become intertwined.
The novel is quite detailed, so if you aren’t one for lots of details (or if you aren’t comfortable with sex, drugs, and some “potty” talk) then perhaps it’s not for you. But, if you’re someone who would like to explore the rich cultures and places of the world through the eyes of an interesting and perceptive young man, then I wholeheartedly recommend you pick up a copy of Silk Road: The Journey.
Moderator's Note: The author has reported that since the time of the review the book has been edited to correct the errors noted in the review.
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