I was approached by Lee from goodtobeyou.com and asked if I would be interested in reading an early edition of Vertical: Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail by Rex Pickett.
Am I the Right Person?
I was a bit apprehensive about saying yes to this opportunity because unlike so many other people I know, I did not love the movie Sideways. People talk about it as if it were this amazing movie that they adore. I, however, do not feel that way. I saw the movie, and thought it was ok, but not the end all be all of movies. It isn’t a movie that I have a desire to watch over and over again. (is that sacrilegious?) It isn’t a movie that I would download to my ipad to help me make it through those long cross-country flights. (The Hangover, Ocean’s Eleven and Grosse Point Blank are on my ipad)
As I was pondering the question of if I was the right person or not, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner and Divergent entered my mind. I then decided to accept the generous offer from Lee.
The Movie In My Mind
I love to read! (I’m sure my mother has a huge smile on her face right now after reading that sentence.) I enjoy sitting down, preferably with a glass of wine by my side, and curl up with a good book. I know right away if I am going to enjoy the book or not. If the writer engages me, I no longer see words on a page but the characters come to life in my mind as if I am watching a movie (does that happen to anyone else?) and I don’t want to put the book down. If the author and I are not sympatico, then I see words instead of actions and I know it is going to be a tough read.
I was so excited to start reading Vertical. Not being sure what to expect from it, I was hoping the author would not send Miles and Jack on a second trip doing the same thing as the first. Sideways 2 was not what I wanted to read.
You Had Me at Shell Beach
The book opens with Miles at a Pinot Conference in Shell Beach. Immediately upon reading, I was intrigued. I admit that the book had somewhat of an advantage in the fact that I already had the images of Paul Giamatta and Thomas Haden Church in my mind. Having not read the original book, and only having the movie to go on, there was quite a bit I didn’t have a memory of, so there was plenty of opportunity for my mind’s eye to come into play. I’m so thrilled to say full heartedly, that it did! Snappers, Joy, Phyllis, even the characters that they met along the way came into crystal clear view in my mind. The movie was rolling and I didn’t want the end credits to start scrolling.
Vertical, at times, had me laughing so hard, that I had to put the book down, pick up my phone and tweet:
— Lori & Michael (@Dracaenawines) September 14, 2016
Then there were times that I physically let out a huge gasp of fear and astonishment. (Snapper) And ultimately, settling in and developing empathy for the Phyllis and Miles and their relationship. The book takes you on a ride, not just in the car with Miles and Jack but in your feelings. If you can read this book and not assess your personal relationships with your family, I will be completely surprised.
Close to the Heart
I have beta read for several books and loved acting in that role. As a beta reader you read a book prior to publication. The author is at the final stages of finishing the book and is just looking for opinions on the book itself. Maybe something isn’t as clear as the author thinks it is because they are so close to the story, or they have written something later in the book that contradicts something earlier. My job was to critique it. However, I have never read a book with the intent of writing a review. I think the most difficult thing about writing this review is that I don’t want to give away anything that can ruin the book for others.
First off, one of the things that I loved (albeit, this may be specifically to me) was the road trip itself. They leave southern California, and head up to Paso Robles to do a gig at Justin. The author knows his way around Paso, because the description was spot on.
After Paso, they travel to Fresno. (which if you know me, you know we now live in Fresno) so I enjoyed reading about my new home town. Semi spoiler alert – it is in Fresno, that I laughed my tail off and had to send that tweet!
The Fastest Three Paragraphs
Here we go; Think Chris Berman and “The Fastest Three Minutes” as I share the story of Vertical.
Miles, now a celebrity is still extremely neurotic. While his agent books him at as many wine events as possible, Miles drinks as much Pinot as possible. He is also popping as much Xanax and Viagra as he can. Phyllis, his mother, has had a stroke and is living in La Villa de Muertes (I love the name) and wants out! She wants to go live with her sister in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Acro and aerophobic Miles steals his 75 year old mother from the nursing home and drives her to Wisconsin.
Mile’s has agreed to participate in a wine event at Justin Winery in Paso Robles, and be the Master of Ceremonies at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon. He decides he is going to kill two birds with one stone, so he calls up his good friend Jack and pitches the idea of taking a road trip, filled with lots of wine, women and adventure. Oh yeah, and by the way, they will have Mile’s wheelchair bound mother, her energetic and yappy dog, Snappers and pot smoking aide,Joy with them.
Jack, of course, agrees to the adventure. On the trail, Jack and Miles find a few amorous women to help pass the time as well as all the Pinot they can drink. Phyllis, Jack and Miles get into some very interesting situations thanks to the benefit of alcohol. While Joy, the aide, takes every opportunity to take a few puffs of her “Mary Jane” along the way. Miles and Phyllis (only them) finally make it to Sheboygan, only to find that life isn’t always greener on the other side.
Briefly, here are a few of my highlights of the book. I don’t think they will give anything away, but I hope as you read your copy, you will laugh (or cry) along with me and enjoy it as much as I did.
- of course there is another spit bucket incident
- Jack and his medical visit in Fresno
- Snappers and his happy energy – then not so happy Snappers
- a vet pulling Phyllis’ tooth
- Phyllis in her wheelchair on the vineyard hill
- The wine dunking booth complete with floating breasts
- “I made chocolate!”
A Roller Coaster of Emotion
This is not just a story of friendship. Not even just a story about family. Nor is it a roadtrip saga or a wine story. This is a story of an individual that finally confronts his demons. It’s a story of a mother and son, who were only that in name, finally becoming “family.” A story that proves no matter how much distance you think is between two people, if you want to narrow the gap, it is always possible.
Vertical the Book, touches on a lot of sensitive issues. The story line involves alcoholism, stroke, and end of life decisions. The joy that a dog can provide, the perils of taking drugs and even a DUI come into play. Yet, somehow, Rex Pickett lets you know it will all be ok. It’s ok to be sad and its ok to laugh. This book makes you do both. I recommend reading this book. And I hope it does become a movie. (especially for the Fresno scene) So go ahead, order the book on their website or on Amazon and read it! If you enjoy it as much as I did you can help make the movie become a reality. Head to www.LooseGravelPress.com and share your thoughts.