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A father and son travel across North America in a pickup truck—talking, laughing, fighting, and bonding.
After years of thinking he’d never have kids, Lee Gutkind became a father at forty-seven and, following his divorce, soon found himself taking over more and more of the primary care responsibilities for his son, Sam. As one of a growing number of “old new dads” (recent studies have shown that one in ten children are born to fathers over forty), Gutkind realized that he faced challenges—both mental and physical—not faced by younger dads, not the least of which was how to bond with a son who was so much younger than himself. For the past seven years, Gutkind’s approach to this challenge has been to spend one to two months of every summer “truckin’” with Sam, a term they define as a metaphor for spontaneity, a lack of restriction: “Truckin’ means that you can do what you want to do sometimes; you don’t always need to do what’s expected.”
What began as long, cross-country journeys in a pickup truck, including one memorable trip up the Alaska-Canadian Highway en route to a writers conference in Homer, Alaska, have in more recent years ranged farther afield, to Europe, Australia, Tibet, and Africa. Whether listening to rock-and-roll music, entertaining themselves with their secret jokes and code words, fishing for halibut, or fighting over tuna fish sandwiches and how best to butter one’s toast, Lee and Sam have learned to respect one another. In the process of their travels and their adventures, Lee has also come to grips with the downside of middle age and the embarrassment of “senior moments,” while Sam has inevitably begun to assert himself and shape his own life. Interspersed with Sam’s own observations and journal entries, Truckin’ with Sam is an honest, moving, and often hilarious account of one father’s determination to bond with his son, a spontaneous travelogue that will appeal to old dads, new dads, and women who want to know more about how dads (and sons) think and behave.
“…Gutkind launched a tradition of hopping in his truck with his son and taking off, destination unknown. He shares the powerful connection the two forged through these journeys … although the book is more a memoir than parenting guide, Gutkind celebrates creativity as parents seek to connect with their children.” — ForeWord Reviews
“…a frank, funny, quasi-religious memoir of one graying Boomer’s attempt to redefine fatherhood.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“…reflections on the nature of family, love, and the father and son bond.” — Publishers Weekly
“In this funny and moving tale about the long strange trip that is fatherhood, Gutkind offers readers a precious truth—that it is only through the eyes of our children that we see ourselves clearly.” — Ariel Sabar, author of My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq
“This blazingly original memoir has just become my favorite American road story. When Lee Gutkind and his teenage son, Sam, light out for adventure on the highway, what is supposed to be a vision-quest turns into a struggle for the driver’s seat. Gutkind writes better than anyone about the heartbreaking and thrilling sacrifices of parenthood. This book is the Fear and Loathing of fatherhood—by turns hilarious, twisted, and poignant.” — Pagan Kennedy, author of The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution and Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth-Century Congo
“Truckin’ with Sam is a multilevel traveling tale that takes you around the globe in more ways than one. Lee Gutkind has written a superb account of the father-son bond as it evolves in the heat and heart of their many adventures.” — Lauren Slater, author of Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir
Lee Gutkind is Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and Professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University; founding editor of the journal Creative Nonfiction; and the author or editor of over a dozen books, including Almost Human: Making Robots Think; Forever Fat: Essays by the Godfather; and The Art of Creative Nonfiction. His son, Sam Gutkind, is now a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University.
Table of Contents
Preface: “What’s All This Blood, Dad? I Don’t Understand!”
Prologue: Africa—July 2009
Part I. The Open Road
The Evolution of Truckin’
Trapped at the Border
Listening to the Road
The Jack London of Rock and Roll
Tuna Fish Trouble
Sam’s Dangerous Disease
Another Border Crossing
Father Knows Best?
The Rope Test
The “Make My Day” Syndrome
The Red Bike
Part II . Religious Experiences
Getting Lost and Losing It
The Big Picture
Paul and Barbara
Bears on the Brain
Winning (and Losing) the Race
The Gödel Connection
Afterword by Sam Gutkind
Truckin’: A Final Word, by Lee Gutkind