MOVE OVER BILL BRYSON
I'm not kidding! If you think Bryson's 'Notes from a small island' was a good read, this is much better although, of course, Travis Casey is heading for a huge island.
Travis Casey has a way of drawing the reader in as he shares his life and frustrations. If you've read the blurb you'll know he's returning home to Brainerd, Minnesota (home of the infamous Brainerd Diarrhoea, I believe), with his gorgeous English wife, Wendy, to look after elderly parents. Not many books can make me laugh out loud but I was chuckling away to myself before they'd even arrived.
You could write a book about Wendy herself, although I suspect Travis Casey's life wouldn't be worth living if he ever attempted to do so. Every time Wendy says, "Bloody hell!" Casey's mother has to say a little prayer to save the whole car-load of them from heading in that direction themselves, bloody or not bloody.
But it's the family's trials and tribulations when dealing with America's bureaucracy, red tape and general paper shuffling that is a joy to read. I love the fact that Wendy, who is married to an American citizen, has to first of all possess an American I.D. before being awarded an American I.D.
Casey speaks eloquently on such diverse subjects as tipping to racism. I lived eight years in America myself yet never before considered the absurdity of tipping a percentage of a bill. In Casey's own words, "Does the waitress have to work any harder if I order a $30 steak or a $10 hamburger?" The answer, of course, is no, yet the more expensive item we order off the menu, the more it costs us in tips.
I remember one time in a restaurant in Florida where my wife and I had received particularly good service, and I'd decided that about 18-20% was merited as a tip. However when the bill arrived I noticed he'd already added his own tip to the bill. Now some restaurants do this, but it always states so on the menu and I didn't recall seeing this, so I questioned it. The next words out of his mouth astounded me;
"Oh yeah, we always do that with English people."
"Did I hear you correctly? Did you just say that you always add a tipping surcharge when English people are dining?"
"Yeah," he replied, not taken aback at all, "We've found that foreigners don't really know how much to tip."
"Is that right? Well I'll tell you exactly how much I'm tipping, shall I? Nothing. Zero. You blew it."
"You're not tipping me!!" he said, flabbergasted. "You can't do that!" He actually said that.
"Oh yeah, I can. I can do whatever I like. And just for the record I was going to tip you more than 15% but you've just blown it."
He actually continued to argue, telling me that I couldn't do that, it was against the law, against the Constitution, I had a legal duty, this is why they add the tip themselves to the bills of English people and on and on and on until I had to tell him to get the manager over here otherwise I wouldn't even pay for the meal at all.
But back to Casey's book. Sharing my own story is my way of giving the reader a taste - without including any spoilers - of what you'll find inside this book. Not only is the book exceedingly funny but it also contains many gems of wisdom, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. A superb read!