Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust

Dusk mud flats mottled silver, mauve, five shades 
of taupe. Air barrel-aged in live oak
and madrone. Phoenix Lake's green jewel. ~ Opening of Paradise Drive

Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust
Press 53, 2015
Poetry; 114 pgs

About the book: 
Paradise Drive links 80 sonnets in a narrative about a modern Pilgrim on a journey from rust belt Pennsylvania to the glittering suburbs of Marin County, California. The book takes great pleasure in questioning, tinkering with, and ultimately exploding the sonnet form. 

Of the three poetry books I read last year, this is by far my favorite. I liked the way each of the poems was connected to the other, telling the story of a character we only know as Pilgrim. The language and style of each poem was lovely in every way. I had not intended to read this book in one sitting, but I did. And then I read it again, more slowly later.

Cowed by all those straight white teeth,
Pilgrim ran for the bathroom, not for coke
as others supposed, but for something
more covert and rare: a book,
or any bit of anything written. ~ Excerpt from "Cocktail Party"

Rebecca Foust's poems are set in the here and now, dealing with first world problems. From poverty to wealth. She takes on issues of today, something I would not have generally associated with a sonnet (but then, my knowledge of poetry and its nuances is quite low). There is talk of war and terrorism, birth and raising a child with autism, grief and death, marital issues and drugs, among other issues. The sonnets are often filled with dry humor, sadness, and share a reality I found myself relating to easily. Our Pilgrim is a reader too, like so many of us. Hiding in the bathroom with a book at a party . . . Who among us hasn't wanted to do that (maybe we have!)? As I read, Foust's voice wound around me, enveloped me, and I was lost in its beauty and thoughtfulness.

The opening sonnet, "Paradise Drive" moved me with its imagery, while others touched me in different ways. I could relate to the "The Truth", which is about the Pilgrim's father, "He was false and flawed and still someone's god . . ." It made me think of my own dad and the life he had led when he was alive. The sonnet "Troth" brought back memories of my dog Riley, of sitting with him in those final moments, remembering our life together:

I'm on my knees, now, leaning in. He turns
his head, smells me. He tastes my face. ~ Excerpt from "Troth"

One of my favorites of her sonnets is "Je Est Un Autre" in which the Pilgrim finally meets someone she can talk to at the party, someone who seems to have similar interests, ". . . What a relief not to be all alone, how wonderful to agree on so many things!" The twist at the end is really what makes the poem for me.

I do not know enough about poetry, much less the sonnet, to understand how the author has reinvented the sonnet as I saw mention of in one synopsis I read several weeks ago. I hadn't even realized there were so many different styles of poetry out there until I looked up the definition of a sonnet. I am not an expert in poetry nor even a regular reader of it (although I write it on occasion). But I do know I was impressed by this collection to the point of being moved and delighted by it.

To learn more about Rebecca Foust and her work, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Paradise Drive on the Poetic Book Tours route:

January 1: Eva Lucia (review)
January 5: Everything Distils Into Reading (review)
January 6: Jorie Loves a Story (review)
January 7: I’d Rather Be at the Beach (review)
January 9: Eccentric Everything (review)
January 9: Eccentric Everything (interview)
January 11: Musings of a Bookish Kitty (review)
January 13: Diary of an Eccentric (Video post)
January 15: True Book Addict (review)
January 20: I’m Lost in Books (video post)
January 25: Emma Eden Ramos (review)
January 26: Bookgirl’s Nightstand (video post)
January 27: Necromancy Never Pays (review)
January 28: Suko’s Notebook (review)
January 30: Create With Joy (review)
January 30: Absurd Book Nerd (review)

Many thanks to the Poetic Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. Review copy provided by the author for an honest review.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I'm not a huge poetry fan but this does intrigue me. It may not be a buy book for me but I'd definitely like to get it from the library to see how it all comes together.

    1. Katherine - I was surprised at how swept up in this collection I was. It was such fun to read, even as sad as it was at times.

      I admit I probably wouldn't have picked this up on my own, but I am glad I took a chance on it. I still find poetry a bit intimidating, but I like to push myself now and then.

  2. Hm, I might enjoy poetry that combines to tell a story since I love novels written in verse.

    1. Kathy - I have only read one novel written in verse and I loved it. This isn't quite the same, but you can definitely see a connection between the poems.

  3. Like Katherine above I'm not a big fan of poetry but this does sound like a collection that would move me.

    1. Tracy - Poetry isn't my go to form of literature either, I admit. I do enjoy it from time to time though. I especially like reading it out loud. This was a good collection and I'm glad I was able to read it.

  4. Wendy, Thank you so much for this wonderful review. Fantastic that it resonated so well with you. Thanks for being on the first tour of 2016.

    1. Serena - Thank you for letting me be a part of the tour! I was blown away by this collection. It really spoke to me.

  5. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I don't have a great knowledge of poetry either but I do try to read it now and then. I am really looking forward to jumping in this collection.

    1. Iliana - I hope you enjoy this collection if you do read it.

  6. I should someday just bite the bullet and read a poetry book. I just find it something I rarely enjoy, so it's hard. Same reason I don't read verse. This one especially sounds good.

    1. Athira - I find poetry intimidating which is why I shy away from it (which is crazy because I write poetry--nothing I've shared). It's hard to explain what it is I like about it. I like way it sounds or rather flows. I like how simple and yet complex poetry can be. Maybe it comes from my love of music and songs.

      I don't know if you've started reading to your daughter yet, but you'll find a lot of the young children's books are written in a style reminiscent of poetry. :-)

  7. For someone who enjoys poetry, I don't end up reading very much of it! Based on your review, this is a collection I should probably check out.

  8. I love poetry so Paradise Drive sounds good. I like the idea that the poems are all connected and that she touches on important issues. Glad you enjoyed this!

    1. Naida - I think you would like this collection. I hope you do get a chance to read it!

  9. Literary Feline,
    I'm glad you enjoyed this collection of sonnets. I, did, too. Pilgrim is certainly an engaging narrator.

    1. Suko - I agree. I could relate to Pilgrim in some ways and quite enjoyed this collection. I am glad you did too!


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