Review: A Deadly Wandering

June 18, 2015 Biography, Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction, Psychology, Science 8 ★★★★

Review: A Deadly WanderingTitle: A Deadly Wandering
Author: Matt Richtel
Source: TLC Book Tours
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: Although the science and citations weren’t as detailed as I’d have liked, this book was a profoundly moving and enjoyable read.

This is a story about something that could happen to any of us if we’re not careful. This is a story about the sometimes deadly consequences of texting and driving. This is a story about Reggie Shaw and how he caused an accident that killed Jim Furfaro and Keith O’Dell, both fathers and rocket scientists, because he was texting while he drove. Through extensive interviews with Reggie, his family, and the families of Jim and Keith, the author shows the impact this accident had on their lives. He also explains the science that makes texts so hard to ignore that many of us choose to text and drive, despite knowing that doing so is dangerous.

The two parts of this story – the accident and the science – are blended together well, but they do read like two different genres. Despite my usual preference for science, my favorite parts were those about the accident, the investigation, and Reggie’s later activism against texting and driving. I liked that the author managed to make me feel some suspense over how the story would play out, despite knowing the broad strokes of the story in advance. I was also very moved by the stories of the families and appreciated all of the direct quotes.

My preference for these true crime-like sections was partially caused by the perfunctory nature of many of the science sections. I often felt that the author was really skimming the science. Sometimes I felt more technical terms should have been used, even if they required explanation. At other times, I would have loved a diagram of the brain because the descriptions just weren’t enough. I did think a strength of the book was that we learned a lot about everyone involved in the story. This included not only investigators and others involved in the court case, but the scientists as well. I just wish the author had taken a little more time and described the science in equally great detail.

Despite some shortcomings in the science sections, I enjoyed reading this story. It had many components that make a great story for me: science, mystery, and a narrative I could connect with. The author’s note did a decent job making it clear where the author gathered all of his information. Personally, I would still have liked to see more detailed citations. This was sourced like a newspaper article rather than a book, with most of the information attributed to conversations the author had, even when that information was paraphrased instead of quoted. There was a wonderful index though, which I found very helpful in my quest to read more thoughtfully. If I couldn’t remember where we’d met a person before, I could easily find out using the index.

At first, I was uncertain about the story focusing on Reggie as much as or more than the families of Jim and Keith. However, his actions after the accident made me feel he deserved a sympathetic perspective. I also thought that his story was at least as important for showing the reader the terrible impact texting and driving can have on someone’s life. Although I do not text and drive, I do occasionally pay attention to my phone while driving for other reasons. After reading this, I know I’ll be pulling over next time my GPS malfunctions or I forget to start my audiobook before I get on the road. To do anything else is to value a few minutes of my time more than someone else’s life. I enjoyed this book, but most appreciated it for putting this reality in perspective.

Have you ever read a book that made you want to change something about your life?

For some other perspectives, be sure to check out the other stops on the tour.



8 Responses to “Review: A Deadly Wandering”

    • DoingDewey

      I’m glad you got something out of it even though you knew the science. I love when a book manages to combine a touching narrative with interesting science.

    • DoingDewey

      I would probably describe this as narrative nonfiction, although since it’s told largely through quotes, I think it would more properly be described as journalistic nonfiction (to borrow a term from the author of The News Sorority). Although I do wish the science had gotten more attention, I think the author did a pretty good job blending the true story with the science.

    • DoingDewey

      I agree! Really, before reading this, I felt like I would never be silly enough to text while driving, but reading this made me reevaluate the other ways I interact with my phone that might be just as dangerous.

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