Written by Catherine Ryan Hyde and published in 2014, Take Me with You is a sentimental story of a recovered alcoholic, August, who lost his 19 year old son in a tragic car accident, splits from his wife due to the death of their son, breaks down while on a motorhome trip to Yellowstone and agrees to babysit two young boys, Seth and Henry, sons of the mechanic who repaired the motorhome and who is on his way to a 90 day sentence in the local jail.
The story covers about 8 eight years in the lives of the characters. August is a science teacher, remorseful over the death of his son, prompted to give up drinking after the death and ends the story diagnosed with Muscular dystrophy.
Seth is twelve when he and his brother board the motorhome to Yellowstone. He grows into a confident rock climber.
Henry is a shy seven year old at the beginning of the story, hardly talks but opens up as the story progresses.
August doesn’t really evolve during the story. He seems to be a critical man, upset at the world that his boy died. He rebuffs his ex wife’s desire to get back together believing himself superior to her continued drinking while he stopped. He’s critical of the two boys, especially of Seth’s rock climbing drive. His only growth comes in the final pages as he begins to accept Seth’s rock climbing passion.
The boys, on the other hand, are good and balanced despite their mother abandoning them at a young age and their father, while providing and supporting them financially, pushes them aside emotionally in favor of drinking.
I believed the story tried to be a statement on the pitfalls of drinking. But, it was unrealistic. A dad doesn’t let a complete stranger take his kids on summer long trip to Yellowstone, even if his is headed to jail. Certainly, he would have reservations about it, even if he didn’t trust social services. Yet, he still sends the boys with August.
And August must have been in search of surrogate kids. That is probably why he agreed to take the kids. And, Seth, age 12, and Henry, age 7 at the start of the trip is the same age of the dead son would be had he lived to ride along on the trip.
I never really got a sense that August used Seth and Henry to replace his lost son, although the three continued their relationship after the first trip ended. I believe August adopted Seth and Henry as his own but I had to read between the lines on that one.
The boys are unrealistic regarding their polite and adaptive behavior. Usually, boys growing up behind an auto repair shop without a mother and with a dismissive alcoholic father grown up to be bad in one way or another. But, in this story, these boys are model kids in every detail. Maybe these two are the exception.
One of the last scenes of the story show the three tossing the remaining ashes of the dead son into a small wooden barrel and then throwing the barrel into the Niagara river and watching it go over the falls. That theme was introduced in the early chapters, where August said his son wanted to go over the Falls in a barrel.
This is a thick novel, about 350 pages. The writing is overly detailed at times. Although, I did enjoy the details about hiking through Yellowstone and the other parks the story traveled through.
Maybe the moral of the story is to ‘be’. At least, in the final segments of the story, while broken down in the middle of rural Kansas (maybe), August philosophies about ‘being in the moment’, not rushing ahead. This came out in the final fifth of the story. Before this, August was critical of himself and others. Maybe this is another aspect in which August changed.
Kurt Vonnegut would (most likely) say the Shape of this story is a straight horizontal line, light reading, not taking away too much, ambiguous.